Good cheer. The judge and jury will appreciate a trial attorney with generally good humor. That doesn’t mean you should wisecrack at inappropriate times, but it’s very effective to remain cheerful in trying circumstances.
Control. Trial attorneys need to appear in control in the courtroom. For example, witnesses, documents, and facts should be where you can reach them in a hurry. If a document can’t be quickly located in a file maintained by an adverse witness, hand the file to the witness, and ask him or her to “please find the letter of November 30 and read it to yourself.” Let the witness do the fumbling.
Confidence. At every trial, whatever the chances of winning, project confidence. No one will believe your case if you don’t believe it yourself. Confidence is transmitted by tone of voice, body language, and the ability to maintain a bored countenance while opposing counsel scores mercilessly on a key witness during cross-examination.
When cross-examining, good cheer and confidence are invaluable. The ever-cheerful examiner will never be wounded too badly when an answer backfires. The force of a confident tone can persuade a jury that a cause is right or the testimony is truthful.
Consciously work on your confidence—keeping in mind that every attorney, however polished in appearance, is probably internally seething with insecurity during trial.
Get more of this type of strategy and tactical advice from expert trial attorneys in CEB’s Effective Direct and Cross-Examination, chap 1.
Other CEBblog™ posts on trial tactics:
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