How Many Characters do you use in Court?

The title is a trick question, because the answer is ONE! When attorneys fix this one thing, they will be more successful in all their legal proceedings.

The “fix”:

Attorneys should be using consistent tone, body language, and verbal style throughout a trial (or any legal meeting), no matter whom they are speaking with. Why? Former federal prosecutor Allison Leotta in a blog for the ADA Journal states the case: “Your audience – the jury – is watching you from the moment they walk in, long before you say anything. Their only entertainment is watching you. They can’t check their phones, talk to one another or even lift their rears from their assigned seats. They’ll notice everything you do and draw conclusions about who you are.”

When attorneys seem like different people or characters when they are “performing” for the jury, jurors are suspicious and have a harder time trusting them and will make unflattering conclusions. For example, if legal counsel is warm and friendly at the jury box, but turns into a big, bad, bully to a witness during cross examination, jurors will be turned off.

How to be consistent

I’m not saying lawyers have to be all smiles all the time. However, behavior should be on a believable scale. At a basic level, change the intensity up and down while keeping some mannerisms constant. This will give the jury a baseline of behavior they can begin to trust and interpret.

If this feels too constrictive, attorneys should make sure the qualities of their movements are consistent. Changing between accelerating and decelerating, increasing pressure and decreasing pressure, etc. will less likely raise red flags in the jury. The brain reads opposites as the same signal. This kind of variety will give attorneys the diversity they crave.

If you wonder if you are suffering from multiple personalities in the courtroom, hire a behavior expert for an assessment. Trained experts will tell you how and when you lose the trust of your audience.