It is often tempting to rip into opposing counsel, or disparage his/her client in emotionally charged vitriolic words, yet such an approach rarely wins over jurors. Sure, you have the shock value of a momentary deer-in-the-headlights stunned witness or a knee-jerk angry riposte from opposing counsel, but in the long run, that’s not what convinces jurors.
Jury studies systematically show that jurors tend to be highly critical and disapproving of such tactics. One time during trial, no problem. More than that, jurors will turn on the offending attorney. Over-aggressiveness has repeatedly been pointed out in jury debriefings as an advocate’s most common flaw.
This is not to say you must turn into Mr./Ms. Meek, not at all. It simply means that you persuade jurors more with positive arguments, such as appealing to devotion to an ideal, or the well-being of the community at large, or the importance of justice. These can be expressed with great vigor and emotional commitment, as long as you are sincere in your delivery.
Conviction in the name of a righteous cause is what wins jurors over, not slash-and-burn verbal onslaughts.
Read my latest article, “Managing the Angry Client 101” in the September issue of Plaintiff magazine. Click here.