3 Things Great Lawyers Do

MACK truck
Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons

Since I’m currently completing a judicial clerkship, which I’ve blogged about previously  , I have the opportunity to witness many great and not so great attorneys in court. I never took Trial Advocacy in law school. I never really planned on being an Attorney that litigated a lot. Regardless, I think every Attorney should be prepared to be an effective advocate in court. Here are some tips from my observations:

1.  Speak with Confidence:  If you sound unsure about what you are asking for or presenting about in Court, it is likely to  affect how your message is received. Personal self confidence goes a long way into persuading others. The best advice comes from an unexpected source — platinum selling artist Beyonce.

Cover of "I Am...Sasha Fierce (Platinum E...
Cover via Amazon

Beyoncé developed her Sasha Fierce alter ego to overcome shyness. Later, she told Oprah that after some time she wasn’t shy anymore and “Sasha Fierce” had become just another facet of her. Developing an alter “court” ego  to overcome stage fright  is a great tactic to ‘fake it until you make it.’  Judge White, (ret.) an adjunct law professor at Gonzaga University once told me, “You have a great legal voice. You may discover it tomorrow, or twenty years from now. But it is there.” Judge White’s observation is important because new attorneys have a misconception that they have to come right out of the gate and be the next great Orator. It’s not realistic. What is realistic, is to keep working on it until we find our legal voices. If you’re shy about public speaking, channel your inner courtroom superstar –but, be sure to not to go overboard. The most important thing is to still be true to yourself.

2. Avoid Cliche Phrases:  My co-workers and I know that if we hear an attorney say, “This will be brief” or “I’ll be brief”  it almost always means that the argument is actually going to be long and drawn out. Other cliche phrases and colloquialisms should likewise be avoided. Others have blogged about common cliche ‘lawyer’ phrases but I really enjoyed this post. A few of my favorites…

I’m pretty sure the judge will be inclined to split the baby.

You could drive a Mack truck through the hole in that argument. (I for one, have no clue what a Mack Truck is or its size.)

We really can’t risk throwing out the baby with the bathwater, if you know what I mean.(Why are we killing/endangering so many babies?)

3.  Arrive Early:  It should go without saying that timeliness is crucial to developing a good reputation in the legal community. All the best attorneys that I’ve witnessed arrive early. Sometimes life gets in the way, and those attorneys always give chambers a call to let us know that they are running behind. These calls go a long way in good will with the office. Advice? If you’re going to be late, give the court a courtesy call or make arrangements. Plus, starting an argument when you’re late increases the likelihood that you will be flustered and unclear ill-prepared.


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