Many of you are coming around to the idea of shifting your focus in voir dire from trying to figure out who your "bad" jurors are to focusing on finding your "ideal" juror instead.
What you focus on, you create. If you look for ideal jurors, I firmly believe you'll find them.
That said, some of you have asked the question, "Won't identifying my ideal juror cause opposing counsel to kick them off?"
And the answer is: Yes, it might. But you don't need to worry about this if you've formed the group.
One of our primary needs as humans is a sense of belonging. Humans crave feeling like a part of a group. When you get jurors formed around the principles in your case, you create a group dynamic. That group dynamic exerts influence on the members.
In this way, then, you are looking for your ideal JURY vs. your ideal JUROR.
In other words, once you figure out what principles your case centers around, and you get jurors rallying around those principles as a group, opposing counsel can kick off members of the group but it won't matter, because the group still remains.
It's group formation you're after, not convincing individual jurors to vote your way. Get the group formed and ready for battle and any attempt of opposing counsel to kill individual soldiers won't do much good.
Give this podcast a listen to learn more.
Ok, it's January 6th, so maybe you've already planned your year, but if you haven't, I've got five essential questions for you to answer before you do.
When most people plan their year, (or New Year's Resolutions or what have you) they start by what they want to do or accomplish.
I suggest you start with a different question.
Question #1: How do I want to be this year?
All doing flows from being. Meaning, however you "are" is what you will produce. Frantic, frazzled and panicked? You'll produce frantic, frazzled results.
Start your planning by asking yourself, "how do I want to be this year?" For me, I want to be calm, at peace and have lots of space. That informed how I put my schedule together.
Question #2: What's my theme for the year?
Once I decided I wanted to be calm, at peace and have lots of space, I asked...why?
And the answer was because I had had a pretty frantic year of getting my book done and edited and to print and it was time to settle in for some development; of myself, of my business and of the From Hostage to Hero brand. So that became my theme for the year: DEVELOPMENT. All of my scheduling choices now flow from that question. Is this something that will develop me or my business or From Hostage to Hero? If the answer is no, I don't make time for it.
Question #3: How can I schedule this?
It's one thing to decide how you want to be and what your theme is, but now you need to bring it into reality. For me, I need space to develop. So, I created a schedule where I have lots of down time so I can study and work on my business.
Whatever you decide, carve out time for you FIRST, and then add in all of your other obligations.
Question #4: What are my routines?
As you're scheduling, don't forget about routines that help you attune to yourself.
What do I mean "attune?" Routines that help you feel your best and center you for the work you have ahead of you. For me I have a morning routine that includes morning pages, (see Julia Cameron's Artist Way) journaling, exercise and meditation. I also have an evening routine that includes online courses, a quiet time ritual, reading and stretching. These don't have much, if anything to do with "development" they’re just for me. I suggest you decide on some routines you can count on as you move through your year as well.
Question #5: What are your boundaries?
Once you've scheduled out your life to reflect how you want to be, you need to decide on your boundaries. What will you say yes to? What will you say no to? Creating a litmus test can help. For me, before accepting any gig or client I ask myself four questions:
1. Do I want to do this?
2. Does it fit my schedule?
3. Does it advance my goals?
4. Does the money make sense?
If I can't answer at least three questions affirmatively, I don't even consider it. I have other boundaries too; I only ever work one weekend a month. I only see a certain amount of clients each day, etc.
What are YOUR boundaries?
2020 vision is seeing clearly. Let 2020 be your year to get focused and living a life YOU'VE designed instead of merely reacting to all of life's challenges and waking up 20 years from now in a life you don't enjoy or recognize.
Happy New Year!
Give this podcast episode a listen to learn more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last week I talked about getting clear on want.
But knowing what you want is only half the battle. You also have to want the side of shit that comes with your want.
In other words, when you pick up one end of the stick, you also pick up the other.
Here's what I mean:
Every "want" has a shadow side.
Want a satisfying relationship with someone?
Choosing that means you're also choosing disagreements, not being able to make decisions without taking someone else into consideration, not sleeping with other people and all sorts of other things.
Want to have a kick ass body?
Choosing that means you're also choosing not eating whatever the hell you want, spending time exercising instead of doing other things, drinking lots of water instead of alcohol, etc.
Want to run a business?
Choosing that means you're also choosing mundane tasks, managing people, financial ups and downs and lots of other non-sexy things.
You have to embrace the shadow side of your work. Opposing counsel that makes every interaction a drawn-out nightmare. Putting up your own money. Clients who make your life miserable.
These are the things that come with the job you've chosen. Seeing this clearly instead of shaking your fist in the air stops unnecessary suffering. You have enough stress in your life. Stop being surprised that this job is hard. Embrace it.
You can, and should, get clear on what you want. But as you do that, also consider that whatever you choose, you're choosing the shadow side too.
When you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other. Choose wisely.
What's getting in your way?
Well if you're like most of my clients, I bet it's one of these three things:
You Don't Know What You Want
What do you want?
When I ask clients that, I usually get a blank stare or a confused look.
Want feels so...indulgent. So...self-involved. And what the heck does want have to do with anything anyway?
Without want there is no WILL.
When things get tough, you've got to have a want that's flashing so brightly in front of your face that you KEEP GOING.
It's so easy to wake up one day and realize you're living a life you don't even recognize. Getting clear on what you want not only helps you keep going when things get tough but determines the course of your life.
Maybe you know what you want but you're waiting to take action.
You've told yourself you don't have enough experience. Or training. Or knowledge. Or preparation. You should wait. It's the prudent thing to do.
Here's the truth: you'll never have "enough." You'll never walk into court feeling 100% prepared. You'll never feel you know everything there is to know. (At least I hope not. How boring!) "Enough" doesn't exist. It's a myth. It's a fantasy land you think exists if you'd only patiently wait for it to arrive.
You'll be waiting forever.
Stop waiting. Do it now. Whatever "it" is.
You Aren't Willing to Fail
What's the real reason you're waiting? Well, if you're like most people, you aren't willing to fail. You tell yourself it's because you aren't "enough,” but the real reason is you don't like failing.
Newsflash: no one like to fail! But being willing to fail is the key to moving to the next level of your development. If you want to up your game at trial, you've got to put your fear aside and willingly put yourself out there and give up your excuses.
Start wanting. Stop waiting. Be willing to fail. Get out of your own way and watch as your life, and trial practice, transforms before your very eyes.
What's the first thing you do when you screw up?
Well, if you're like most people, you try to forget it as fast as possible.
I've talked a lot about failure in this space and on my podcast, but the only way to really learn from your failure and grow as a trial attorney (or anything else) is to feel your way into it.
Here's an example:
A trial attorney came out to work with me last month. During his opening statement to our mock jury, something went wrong and instead of course correcting, I could see his inner critic take over. The opening got choppier and choppier and when he ended, I could tell he felt badly about his performance.
It would have been very easy to try and make him feel better. I could have told him it was fine. I could have reminded him about what a good trial attorney he is. I could have switched gears and done a new activity to build his confidence.
Instead I did nothing. I let him feel his failure. I didn't argue with him when he said he felt it went terribly. I just let him be with what he was feeling.
When he was ready, we watched the video of the opening and processed our way through it. We then tried the opening again, and this time, I watched him perform more passionately than I'd ever seen him perform before.
Here's what's important: When the attorney sat with his disappointment, he eventually realized, on his own, that it was his inner critic that caused his opening to go awry. He wasn't broken, ineffective or untalented. He just let his inner critic take over for a moment and, by really feeling what that was like, he decided he never wanted to do that again.
Had he ran away from his failure, he wouldn't have recognized what actually happened during his opening. He would have instead told himself to just work harder, when in reality, he didn't need to work harder at all. He just needed to ignore his inner critic the next time it started yapping at him when he made a minor "mistake."
When we attempt to run away from our pain, we don't learn. The first step to greatness is to be willing to fail. But merely failing is not enough. You need to feel your way into it.
Here's a podcast episode that talks about this in more depth.
I know it seems like you are doing an endless number of things both before trial and during.
But when it comes to communication, you're really only doing three things.
Teaching, storytelling and dealing with resistance.
Teaching is where you impart information. You teach throughout trial. For example, if your case involves angiograms, you begin your teaching in voir dire by asking jurors about their familiarity with specific medical terms in your case.
"Who here has any familiarity with angiograms?"
"Was your father's angiogram that you just mentioned diagnostic (performed to diagnose a problem) or interventional (performed to fix a medical issue)?" Etc.
You teach in opening when you tell the jury what angiograms are and how they're used.
"An angiogram is where the doctor punctures the femoral artery..."
"There are two types of angiograms. Diagnostic and interventional. Diagnostic angiograms are performed when..." Etc.
But you also teach in closing when you show the jury how to fill out the verdict form and clarify what the legal terms mean.
And during trial? Your expert witnesses teach on the stand.
You begin storytelling in voir dire by listening to the juror's stories and experiences. You continue storytelling by telling two stories in opening: the story of how the defendant caused the harm, and the story of the effect of that harm on the plaintiff.
But you also tell a story in closing; the story of the plaintiff, projected into the future, where they received no help from the jury.
And during trial? Your lay witnesses tell stories on the stand.
Deal with Resistance
You deal with resistance in voir dire by discussing the very things that are detrimental to your case.
You deal with resistance in opening when you undermine the defense arguments. And in closing you deal with resistance when you teach the jury how to deal with resistance from fellow jurors in the verdict room.
And in trial? You deal with resistance when you conduct your cross exam of the defense's witnesses.
Why is This Important?
It's important to understand the three things you're doing at trial for two main reasons:
First, it helps simplify things. If you know you're teaching, storytelling or dealing with resistance, you can organize your content that way so that it all comes together at the various points at trial.
Second, it informs what body language you should use. Teaching requires you adhere to presentation rules: proper stance, gestures, visuals, etc. When you're storytelling, however, you throw those rules out. Now you can and should "act." Bring the characters to life.
And when you deal with resistance? Adopt the same tone of voice jurors might use should they vocalize their thoughts out loud. "Shouldn't he have told someone?" they might be thinking in a sex abuse case. So say it, just like they'd think it, with proper inflection. This creates a connection between you and the jurors.
Trial can be overwhelming. Simplify your communication by focusing on these three things.
If you've conducted a voir dire that gets jurors interested in the principles in your case, then your jury should be eagerly anticipating your opening to learn more.
Don't blow this chance to inform and inspire jurors by making these three mistakes:
Too Long. Most opening statements are too long.
When your opening is too long, jurors get bored. Opening should be a preview of the evidence and jurors should be left wanting more after you're done. In addition, you want to "hum the tune" of your trial theme in opening so that as the other players (witnesses) sing that tune throughout trial (badly, and often out of tune), jurors remember the original. When you're opening is too long, jurors forget the original song and you start to lose them.
Too Complex. Most opening statements are too complex.
When your opening is too complex, jurors get confused. Names, dates, medical terms the jurors don't understand, stories out of order, tons of visuals...all of these things add to a juror's confusion. When jurors get confused, they go inside to try and figure it out, which means they stop listening to you. If they do figure it out, they'll miss the last few minutes of content you delivered, and if they don't figure it out, they feel stupid.
Too Legal. Most opening statements are too legal.
When your opening is too legal, jurors don't care. And I'm not just talking about legalese either. I'm talking about words like "vehicle" instead of "car." Or "collision" instead of "crash." When you use this type of language no matter how "off code" you're trying to be, you clearly communicate to jurors, "I am a lawyer."
Instead, create an opening that is short, simple and sane.
Short. Condense your opening as much as possible. Short openings communicate, "this is a very simple case that can be decided easily." If you need a 2-hour opening, fine, but really make sure that's the case first.
Simple. Clarify terms for jurors. Remove names and dates. Use the lowest number of visuals you can get away with. Make it easy on jurors to follow along.
Sane. Clean up your language. Use "car," "crash" and other non-lawyer words. Talk like jurors talk.
When you make your opening short, simple and sane, you communicate to the jurors that you have confidence in your case. Half of what you throw into your opening you don't need. So ditch it. Jurors don't commit to content; they commit to people. So make sure your content isn't getting in the way of your connection to jurors.
Give this podcast a listen to learn more.
Only seven, you ask?
I know you aren't trying to annoy jurors, (at least I hope not) but there are certain things that you may be doing that are out of your awareness. Let's look at what they are.
#1: Using the hobby question. You want to "warm jurors up." I get it. But asking about hobbies makes light of the situation. No juror wakes up to a jury summons in the mail and thinks, "Ooh goodie! I can't wait to go have a relationship with Mr. or Ms. Attorney!" Avoid this question, at least at the beginning. Jurors are hungry for information, so give it to them.
#2: Telling jurors how important they are. Look, jurors are important, but they sure don't feel important. They've been forced to come to court, shoved in a room and told to wait, corralled into the courtroom and told where to sit, and branded with a plastic sticker that reads: JUROR, telling other people to avoid them! Is it any wonder they roll their eyes when you stand up in front of them and tell them how important they are? Instead, show them. Listen to them. Which brings us to #3...
#3: Not listening. You tell jurors how important they are and that you want to hear from them, then as they speak you dart your eyes around the box, look at your watch or cut them off. Huh? Stop it. Listen to jurors. Intently and with focus. This is what shows them how important they are.
#4: Gimmicks. It's so tempting to try a gimmick you picked up at a seminar, but I implore you to reconsider. Jurors are on high alert for manipulation of any kind. Drop the gimmicks and back away slowly. You don't need them! You just need to show up authentically and let the jury see who you really are. That's it.
#5: Rewording what jurors say. In an attempt to practice "reflective listening" many of you, instead of repeating back what jurors say, reword what they said. This feels manipulative to jurors. If you want to clarify an answer, ask questions instead of rewording.
#6: Making jurors feel stupid. You inadvertently make jurors feel stupid in two ways: 1) you use terms the juror doesn't understand and 2) you ask "should" questions. Should questions are questions like, "What should the doctor have done?" If a juror doesn't know, uh oh. Instead use, "What were your expectations of the doctor?" And of course, always clarify terms before throwing them around so jurors can easily follow the discussion.
#7: Dumb explanations of bias or the jury selection process. Please avoid talking to jurors like they're in 3rd grade and don't understand bias. Instead, tell them about the principles in the case and discuss those principles. That's where you'll find bias, not by lecturing about it ahead of time.
You don't need to do any of the things above to win the hearts and minds of jurors. You just need you. Really.
Give this podcast a listen to learn more.
Last week we discussed the first thing you can read: permission.
Today let's look at the second thing you can read: what mode jurors are in.
Every single communication situation tends to fall into one of two buckets: Issue & Relationship.
You're either tending to the relationship or dealing with an issue when conversing with someone.
Likewise, people tend to be in issue or relationship mode, depending on the circumstance. You can read this nonverbally.
Issue-oriented communication looks like this:
Relationship-oriented communication looks like this:
We like the relationship-oriented jurors, don't we? They smile and nod and make us feel good. But the issue-oriented jurors are scary, aren't they? They stare and cross their arms and make us feel bad.
Stop making up stories.
Issue-oriented jurors are interested in logistics. "What's this about? Is it worth my time?" It doesn't mean they disagree with you.
Relationship-oriented jurors are simply being polite by nodding and smiling. It doesn't mean they agree with you.
Here is what this body language actually means:
Issue-oriented jurors are motivated by facts, evidence and logic.
Relationship oriented jurors are motivated by emotion, stories and the human element.
This means that if you have a primarily relationship-oriented jury, you need to use more relationship-oriented body language and tell more stories and use more emotion.
Conversely, if you have a primarily issue-oriented jury, use more issue-oriented body language and focus on facts and logic.
Stop trying to memorize hundreds of nonverbal cues and just focus on reading permission and what mode your jurors are in. This will allow you to focus on the job at hand instead of being distracted by irrelevant details.
In order to be truly great, you have to be willing to fail.
But failure doesn't help you learn if all you do is beat yourself up when you make a mistake.
If you want to take your communication to the next level, you have to stop wasting your mistakes.
What does wasting your mistakes mean?
You're going to make mistakes, so why not use them to your advantage?
Here are some steps you can take to help you learn from your mistakes instead of throwing away the opportunity you have to learn:
Use your mistakes to your advantage. Start really digging in when you make a mistake and use it as an opportunity to learn. Failing for failure's sake is a waste of time. Failing your way to greatness is possible when you learn from your mistakes.
Give this podcast a listen to learn more.
If you've never said to your kid, "You LOOK at me when I'm talking to you!" are you even a parent?
Most parents have, at one time or another, said this to their kid. (Especially if said kid is/was a teenager.) And that's because we think it's disrespectful to not make eye contact.
When parenting, this is often true.
The problem is, it's not true across the board.
Eye contact does not equal respect. But thinking it does causes all sorts of problems.
For example, if you believe that you should always make eye contact, this will cause you to:
Here's the deal: eye contact does not equal respect, it equals engagement. Which means you need to look at whatever you want (or want jurors) to engage with.
For example, if you are using visuals during your opening statement, I assume you want jurors to look at them. If so, you need to look at them too. Telling jurors to look at your visual while you maintain eye contact confuses them. You say "look up here" but if you maintain eye contact you nonverbally communicate, "keep looking at me." If you want jurors to engage with the visual, you have to engage with it too.
When you're objected to, look at opposing counsel. This will force the jurors to look there too because people follow our eyes. (Don't believe me? Go to coffee with someone and look over their shoulder as you sit across from each other. It will be near impossible for them not to turn around to see what you're looking at.) When you look at opposing counsel, jurors will associate the objection with them ("why are you interrupting?") versus you ("did you say something wrong?")
When you need to move in the courtroom, break eye contact. It's ok, I promise! It's much weirder to sashay to where you're going than to merely break eye contact and walk normally.
You've been told that eye contact is the holy grail of connection. It isn't. It's merely one way to connect with jurors. But if you insist on making eye contact at every possible moment you not only risk totally weirding the jurors out, you miss out on opportunities to systematically use eye contact to your advantage.
Click here to listen to my podcast on eye contact.
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.
Last week we looked at one of the limiting beliefs so many of you hold: there is a right way to do this. (This, meaning trial.)
Today’s limiting belief is similar but not quite the same. And that’s the belief that you have to be like [insert-famous-trial-attorney-here] to win cases.
It’s soooo tempting to see the “greats” and attempt to mimic their style, thinking that they’ve somehow figured out the way to win, and if you mimic what they’re doing you can win too.
Here’s the mind-blowing truth: the reasons the “greats” are great is because they’ve learned how to let go of their limiting beliefs and just show up as their real-deal selves.
Want to know what Gerry Spence is better at than anyone else on the planet? Being Gerry Spence.
Yes, you need to have command of the law and be well versed in various trial methods and techniques. I’m not suggesting that “authenticity” is all you need at trial. But so many of you believe that if you just had [insert-famous-trial-attorney-here]’s style, personality, dare I use the word…charisma…THEN you’d have it made in the shade.
You don’t need to be anyone but yourself. Working with as many of you as I do, I cringe as I watch you attempt to scrub yourself clean of any perceived faults all while bending yourself into a pretzel in an attempt to show up like [insert-famous-trial-attorney-here].
Stop. Stop the madness.
YOU ARE ENOUGH. Not only are you enough, when you attempt to be like [insert-famous-trial-attorney-here] you overlook your most powerful weapon at trial: your uniqueness.
Trial is a battle over credibility. The most credible person wins. What is the foundation of credibility? Authenticity. Show up like you. Yes, keep learning and practicing. But stop believing that you have to be like [insert-famous-trial-attorney-here] to win. You don’t. You just need to be you.
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