It's easy to get angry at trial.
Lying witnesses, judges who block your planned voir dire, and opposing counsel that continually object have a way of getting you hot under the collar.
But communicating anger at trial can be dangerous.
First off, anger can cloud your judgement. Allowing yourself to get angry can take you off your game and cause you to make decisions that aren't good for you or your client.
Second, communicating anger at trial sends the message to jurors: "This.Is.Personal." Which means you are now, nonverbally, at least, asking the jury to award you, the trial lawyer, a verdict, instead of your client. No jury is willing to do that.
But third, and most importantly, anger communicated at trial reduces the amount of "space" allowed for anger. When you get angry at trial, you force jurors to "balance out" the emotional energy. If you're angry, they must remain calm, or the atmosphere gets too tense.
There are three things you can do when you feel angry at trial:
Don't let anger take you off course. When you feel angry, breathe and try and drop it. If you can't, let it be. And if appropriate, express it.
Remember: the truth needs no defense; it needs a voice. Your job is to be that voice so truth can prevail at trial.
Give this podcast a listen to learn more.
I wrote a book! From Hostage to Hero is now available via Trial Guides at www.trialguides.com.
I wanted to write a book for years, but it wasn't until I really understood that jurors are hostages and that lawyers--come to find out--are hostages too, that the concept took off.
In the book you'll learn about how a juror's brain is under attack during jury selection and how yours is too. I'll introduce you to the concept of permission and why increasing your nonverbal intelligence is the best way to build permission with jurors.
Then I'll walk you through the four steps you need to take to move jurors from hostage to hero.
Grab your copy and join me November 21st at 1 p.m. PST for a virtual launch party in the From Hostage to Hero Facebook Group. I'll walk you through the book, take your questions, and help you get the most out of your reading experience.
You don't want to miss it! Order your copy today to begin your journey from hostage to hero.
What is the focus of most voir dires?
To find the bad apples.
On its face, this make sense; bad jurors can derail things in the verdict room, making all your hard work for naught.
But consider this: it's going to take a team of willing participants to take heroic action for you and your client. Focusing on finding your bad jurors and then working with whoever is left is no way to build a team.
That's why I suggest you focus your voir dire on finding your ideal juror.
In order to find your ideal juror, you need to know what they look like.
To begin, look at the issues in your case.
Ask yourself, "What would an ideal juror have to think or believe for this no longer to be a fear?"
Instead of looking at how to frame your issues, look at what will fix them instead.
For example, if you're worried about the fact that your client is an undocumented immigrant, ask yourself, "What would fix this?"
An ideal juror in that case might believe:
If you hurt someone, you're responsible for the harm, regardless of the victim's citizenship status.
Continue coming up with beliefs your ideal juror will hold. Go down your list of issues and come up with 2 - 3 ideal juror beliefs for each issue. When you're done you should have a pretty comprehensive list.
Take a look at your list. Is it clear what kind of juror you're looking for now? You bet it is. Your ideal juror believes the things on this list. Now you know what to ask in voir dire.
Bonus? As you go looking for your ideal jurors, it will be really clear where the bad apples are.
What you focus on, you create. Look for your ideal juror and they'll show up.
In 2009, after a double bird strike, which killed both engines, Captain Sullenberger made the decision to land a commercial jet with 155 people on board in the Hudson River. A few seconds before the plane hit the water, Captain Sullenberger came on the intercom and said three words which many passengers later said calmed them down immediately.
What were those three words? Perhaps they were words of comfort like, “We’ll be ok,” or “Don’t you worry.” No, the three words Captain Sullenberger said were:
“Brace for impact.”
Brace for impact? How on earth are those words comforting? They aren’t. That’s the point. It isn’t –what– Captain Sullenberger said, it’s how he said it that brought assurance to the passengers. He was in command of his breathing. He was calm. He was confident. And although the words he said were, “Brace for impact,” the message the passengers received was, “We’re in good hands.”
Leadership is communicated. You can think you’re a leader, but unless you can communicate it, no one else will see you that way. But how is leadership communicated? Through breathing.
Authenticity shows people who you are but breathing shows people how you are. If you are not breathing well, or holding your breath in court, you activate your fight or flight response. When you are in fight or flight, you are in survival mode, which means you’re looking out for yourself. No one is going to follow someone who is only looking out for themselves! Breathing well in court communicates, “I’ve got this,” and shows jurors that you are a safe, steady presence and someone worthy of following.
If you want to show up as a leader in court, get your breathing under control. The jury wants to know you’ve got the knowledge, experience, and skill to handle the stress of trial. You communicate all of these things through breathing. But you also communicate that jurors are safe with you. Breathe deeply, and often, and you’ll start to see your leadership grow in court.
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