Several years ago, Bill Barton agreed to speak at our Power of Presence event. During his talk, he said that he had “learned not to take the losses personally.”
A few weeks later, David Sugerman, an attorney based here in Portland, and I had lunch. David just won a 420-million-dollar verdict against BP. He had attended the Power of Presence seminar where Bill had spoken.
As we discussed his recent win and Bill’s remarks on losing, David said, “I too, have learned how to not take the losses personally. But what I think is even more important is to not take the wins personally either.”
Bill, David and other great attorneys know that there’s little rhyme or reason to why you win or lose at trial. They know that there will be times they’ll lose cases they should have won, and win cases they should have lost. Therefore, they don’t take any of it personally. They just do their best and let the chips fall where they may.
Praising yourself for your brilliant lawyering when you win and beating yourself up when you lose makes absolutely no sense. You cannot base how “good” you are on your win/loss record.
Redefine what success means. Are you there to win or to fight? If you’re there to win, well good luck with that. You cannot control whether that happens or not. But if you’re there to fight? THAT you can always be successful at.
We’re in this to win.
The problem is, you can’t control whether you win or not.
And although I think you know this, I don’t think you accept it.
I see so many attorneys desperately attached to winning at trial that when they lose...it knocks them off their game.
When I was wrestling with an issue in my life years ago, my coach told me something I’ll never forget. She said, “The goal is to be 100% committed and 100% unattached.” It’s ok to want to win. But you need to detach from whether it happens or not.
Let go of the idea that winning is the only acceptable outcome. Instead, focus your energy on doing the best job possible and you might just find that winning takes care of itself.
We’ve been looking at what limiting beliefs are holding you back. Today we’re looking at the limiting belief: My Stories Are True.
Years ago, I was working with a trial attorney in my office. After several attempts to get him to open up his body language, he still remained closed.
Frustrated, I finally blurted out, “Ok, what’s the story?”
And out tumbled a story about how he’s afraid he’ll say or do something that will turn the jurors against him and how this fear had been eating him alive.
When our communication is “off” there’s always a story behind it.
Body language starts in the brain. What we think gets communicated through our nonverbals.
This is dangerous.
Walk into the break room and see two people abruptly stop talking and you make up a story that they were talking about you.
See a juror frown and you make up a story that they don’t believe you and your version of events.
Your spouse is late coming home from work and you make up a story that they’ve been in an accident.
All of these stories have consequences because we communicate based on our stories.
Think your colleagues are talking behind your back? You’ll start avoiding them and acting strangely when they’re around.
Think a juror is against you during trial? You’ll start getting nervous about trying new things and play it safe.
Think your spouse has been in an accident? You’ll increase your stress and may lash out at your child.
It’s nearly impossible to stop making up stories because the brain is wired to make sense of our experiences. So instead, ask yourself, “Does this story serve me?”
If your story causes you stress, worry or anxiety, it doesn’t serve you. So ditch it. Tell yourself a new story.
Maybe your colleagues were sharing a personal story and were embarrassed if others heard.
Maybe the juror has a stomach ache.
Maybe your spouse got stopped by his or her boss on the way out of the office and didn’t have time to text you before getting in the car to drive home.
Are these stories true? It doesn’t matter. The point is, they serve you and your mindset. If you end up getting more information that gives you a clearer picture, great! Reframe your story. But until then, pick a story that serves you.
Here’s a podcast you might enjoy.
Rachel, my colleague here at FORTE sent this article to me yesterday, titled, The Green Smoothie Problem: Why Others Don’t Buy Your Ideas. In it the author discusses a common problem using an analogy of offering someone a green smoothie:
“Imagine I just handed you a smoothie in a glass. ‘It’s a green smoothie. Wanna drink it?’
If you’ve never seen or heard of a smoothie like that, you’d react in one of two ways:
Simply by handing you the smoothie, I’ve immediately put you at an information disadvantage. As a result, you anchor to a past precedent or try to draw confidence from others in order to fill in the gaps in your knowledge as quickly as possible. If my goal is to get you to drink the smoothie, I’ve done a rather poor job. I’ve merely handed you the drink and left you to do all the reasoning to influence your decision.
But if I really wanted to influence your decision, what if I shared the reasoning too?
What if, rather than simply hand you the smoothie, I laid out the details of how I came up with it?”
I was immediately struck by how the Green Smoothie Problem applies to voir dire. So often attorneys will begin voir dire by asking questions and offer no context or reasoning for why they are asking. Jurors, who are already at a disadvantage by having the least amount of information in the room, are immediately put on the defensive; if they don’t understand why you’re asking the question, they are afraid that whatever answer they give may be the “wrong” one.
Giving context helps put jurors at ease and helps you get more information. Which is why I suggest always giving a “context statement” before asking a question, or set of questions, in voir dire.
For example, if your case involves a car crash, before asking jurors, “Who here has ever been in a car crash?” Simply state, “This case involves a car crash.” If the case involves a hospital, before asking people about their experiences with hospitals, say, “This case involves a hospital.”
Other context statement examples include:
“In this case, someone was injured in a car crash.”
“In this case, there is a disagreement about what caused the crash.”
“This case involves an insurance claim that was not paid.”
Attorneys who hear this advice for the first time will often say to me, “But the judge reads a statement of the case before voir dire begins! Why repeat that info?”
The answer is twofold. One, the statement by the judge is read in its entirety, where voir dire will examine various aspects of a juror’s belief piece by piece. Two, the person who has the most information is the most powerful person in the room. Why leave that power sitting in the judge’s lap? Giving jurors context as you work your way through voir dire increases your credibility while empowering the jury at the same time. It’s win/win.
To learn more about my trial method, visit my Trial Tips page to watch videos on various trial topics, or subscribe to my newsletter to receive these blogs and videos directly into your inbox.
Sari has been dubbed the "Attorney Whisperer" because of her unique ability to help attorneys communicate their real selves.