If you've been following me for a while, you know I love thought work. Choosing how you think affects how you feel, which governs how you act which determines your results.
But just because we can choose our thoughts doesn't mean you'll never feel pain.
Sometimes life is painful.
What I'm concerned about is when you cause yourself unnecessary pain.
For example, when you lose a trial, it often hurts. And that's normal. I'm not suggesting that if you just thought about it differently, you'd stop feeling the pain of losing.
What I am suggesting is that you add to your distress when you beat yourself up, tell yourself you're a terrible lawyer, freak out and never go to trial again, etc.
All of that is unnecessary pain.
Isn't this job hard enough? Why add unnecessary pain to an already painful career?
Here's the deal: most of you fall into one of two camps: you either go out there and fight and then when you lose, cause yourself the unnecessary pain I just described, or you AVOID pain by living small and not taking risks or chances.
Neither is good.
The path to greatness begins when you take courageous action knowing it may cause you pain. And when that pain comes, you feel it. You don't drink it away, eat it away, sleep it away or otherwise shove it down. You accept it and let it be.
Learning how to BE with your pain is where things get good. The "greats" have all accepted that pain is a part of life and instead of avoiding it, they accept it as part of the deal.
Stop avoiding pain by playing small or adding pain by beating yourself up and instead, embrace the pain that life (and this career) naturally brings. You'll be much happier, I promise, when you can learn to live with pain instead of attempting to outrun it all the time.
Give From Hostage to Hero Podcast "Episode 44-How to Deal with Pain" a listen to learn more.
When I first got into trial consulting, I continued to hear, over and over again, how much lawyers hated voir dire.
This made no sense to me at first, because voir dire seemed like the one part of trial that was unscripted and "loose" and, therefore, "fun."
That's exactly the reason it scares most lawyers. The very fact that voir dire is unscripted is what makes the entire process frightening.
However, the fact of the matter is that voir dire isn't totally unscripted. You can create the questions you plan to ask jurors; you just don't know what they're going to say in response.
It's follow-up that's the problem.
Never fear! There are really only three questions you need to have in your repertoire to follow up with jurors. And they are...(drumroll please...)
Tell me about that.
What was that like?
How important is...?
Think about it. You can follow up with any juror about ANYTHING using one of these three questions.
Say you begin with a question asking if anyone has ever been in a car crash. You call on a juror.
JUROR: "Yes, I was in a car crash."
YOU: "Tell me about that."
JUROR: "Well, it was back in 1995. A car hit me from behind."
YOU: "What was that like?"
JUROR: "It was awful, I had back pain for about a year after that."
YOU: "Tell me about that" or "What was that like?"
JUROR: "It was really hard. I had to miss work for 3 weeks."
YOU: "How important is... it for [drivers to keep their eyes on the road], [insurance to pay when you've been injured] etc.
"Tell me about that" is a way to elongate the conversation. It can be used nearly anywhere. (Thank you Don Keenan.)
"What was that like?" is a way to navigate the juror's experience.
"How important is..." is a great way to get at the principle behind what you're talking about.
Follow up using these three questions. Anytime you're stuck, pull one of these questions out of your back pocket and you'll be good to go.
Listen to this podcast episode to learn more.
I've been going through a major transition lately.
(No, not menopause. But that's right around the corner, thanks for asking.)
And let me tell you, I'm not a fan. (Of transitions or menopause.)
That's not entirely true. I LOVE starting things. And being in transition means that something new is coming.
But unfortunately, transitions also mean something needs to end.
In fact, that's where all transitions begin: with an ending.
Phase #1: Endings
Most people don't like endings. Unless it's the end of a long boring speech or a terrible movie, we avoid endings because they're uncomfortable.
I remember avoiding an ending nearly every summer of my childhood: leaving Finland.
All of the relatives would come to our cabin to say goodbye and line up to give hugs as we walked to the car. I HATED this day and dreaded it for weeks. So, when the day came to leave the cabin and begin our journey south to Helsinki, where we'd catch a plane back home, I'd hide.
Under the bed, in a closet, wherever I could find so I didn't have to say goodbye.
Endings suck, but they're also necessary to transition into the next phase of our life.
When you find yourself facing a time of transition, the first thing you need to ask yourself is:
What do I need to let go of?
Getting rid of the old is the first step to taking on the new.
Phase #2: Neutral Zone
Unfortunately, we can't jump right to the new thing after letting go. As William Bridges says in his book Transitions, after letting go of the old we now enter what he calls, "the neutral zone."
Folks, I can speak from experience when I say, the neutral zone BLOWS.
This is where you know you're done with the old thing, but you're not totally clear what the new thing is.
But here's what's important to remember: hanging out in the neutral zone is where you get clear on next steps, what you want, and which direction you want to take.
When you rush your time in the neutral zone you often make costly mistakes and only have to start over again.
Surrender to the neutral zone. Just stand still for a minute. Clarity will come, I promise.
Phase #3: New Beginnings
Woot woot! The phase we've all been waiting for! Now you can start the new thing. But a word of caution: don't obsess over results here. Especially at the beginning. You're trying things out, feeling your way around. Be kind to yourself!
We all experience transitions in our life from time to time. The key is to surrender to the process.
To learn more give this podcast a listen, and pick up a copy of Transitions by William Bridges.
Working with various attorneys over the last several months I've heard myself repeat something over and over again:
"Your case is not about your client."
This, understandably, catches some people off guard. What? How is my case -not- about my client?
Well, obviously it's about your client as far as that's why you're bringing the case to trial. Someone harmed, maimed or killed your client (or your client's family member) necessitating this need for trial.
But when we get down to communicating to jurors what the case is about, it's not about the client.
It's about a violated principle. Your client is just a representation of the result of the violated principle.
Principles are, as Stephen Covey says in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, "...deep, fundamental truths that have universal applications."
Principles act as natural laws. They are what govern human behavior. And although we all violate these principles in various ways throughout our lifetime, they serve as landmarks for how society should operate and behave.
Here are some principles/violations that nearly all humans hold as sacred:
Nearly any plaintiff case can fit into a violation of one of these principles.
These are just a few examples, and many of the above examples could fit other principle violations. The point is, jurors don't find for plaintiffs, they
take a stand for principles.
As much as we'd like jurors to care about our client, they don't. Tort reform has made sure of that. What you must do instead is get jurors to rally around the principle in your case.
Give this podcast episode a listen to learn more.
This one's going out to the ladies.
But men, there's stuff here for you too.
In nearly every seminar I present, I always get a question from a female trial lawyer in the audience. It usually goes like this:
"How do you suggest women use these techniques?"
"The same way men use these techniques. My advice does not change depending on what's in your underwear."
But here's the thing: these women aren't asking how to use the techniques, as I have just demonstrated how to use them in the seminar they just attended.
What they're really asking is, "How do I use these techniques and not get corrected/penalized/judged?"
And that's an entirely different question.
The truth of the matter is, women are unfairly chastised when they show up in a big, bold way in the courtroom (or anywhere else for that matter.)
And it's also true that women need to do it anyway.
Look, I get it. There's a lot on the line and there are consequences for women who dare show up authoritatively or wear what's comfortable or any of the hundreds of things men are allowed to do without anyone batting an eye.
But what I'm saying is, someone has to go first.
Someone always has to go first.
I firmly believe it is this generation of women that are going to change things. The women who are practicing law today are the ones who are willing to say, consequences be damned, "I'm done hiding who I am just so other people can be comfortable."
And with this bold step, they will make it comfortable for women in other professions to do the same.
There is no other option. You either bend yourself into a pretzel in an attempt to not piss anyone off, or you boldly go where very few women have gone before, and decide, right here and now, that you won't step back for anyone, even if it costs you a verdict.
But I don't think it will. Doing this job as long as I have has shown me one thing consistently: jurors love people, men OR women, who are comfortable in their own skin. Jurors love confidence. Jurors love lawyers who show up in a real, authentic way.
Does this mean you should make it all about you, aggressively throw your weight around or do things just to piss people off? No, and that advice stands for men as well.
Great communication is all about timing. You must know what is needed when. So show up as your big bad self, but also learn how to read your audience and adapt your communication so you are serving their needs as well.
Lady lawyers, I salute you and stand with you as you boldly stand up for your right to communicate, dress and lawyer any way you damn well please.
Give this podcast a listen to learn more.
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