What can do to more effectively assist our clients in navigating the treacherous waters of the justice system and all of the personality types of the people within it? In my experience, generally I have found it extremely beneficial not to engage opposing counsel in their bad behavior whether it is over the phone, at deposition or in trial. For me, in representing people (and in life in general) it is better to not react “in kind” to bad or disrespectful behavior from opposing counsel. By engaging them I lose my effectiveness and give away my personal “power” to my opponent. Some lawyers won’t agree with me. Some of us believe “fire should be fought with fire.” Everyone has to find the right way to deal with anger. In trial, I believe if a lawyer gets so angry in front of a jury, at opposing counsel, at the judge or with a witness during a cross exam, the jury begins to think that the lawyer believes the case is more about him and less about what the facts of the case actually are. We lose our credibility and we can’t be the jury’s guide and teacher that will lead them to justice if we lose our credibility.
I have been extremely aggressive at times in my younger years as a trial attorney–yes, it felt good; yes, it looked good to other attorneys; and yes, my client thought it was fantastic. But the jury hated me for it and it was difficult if not impossible to be forgiven by them and regain “a connection” with them after such an episode. After witnessing an outburst, the jury believes they have witnessed the “true side” of me; perhaps I have been an impostor all along.
Of course, what works for one attorney may not work for others. It took me years to learn that I didn’t have to have the great oratory skills of some members of the Bar nor did I have to have to be the smartest lawyer in the Courtroom to be the most effective. What I needed to do was be myself, not me the lawyer, but me the person, which is the basic premise of what is taught at The Trial Lawyers College. I do need to be extremely prepared and someone who the jury would trust. I could make mistakes as long as I acknowledged them and sincerely apologized. Jurors distrust lawyers. I do my best to leave my lawyer man personality at home. In fact, I try not to have one to leave at home, probably an impossible feat, but something I try to do.