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Friday, July 23, 2010
When I was in college studying communications and theatre in the late 70's/early 80's, I learned that law students were required to take theatre or drama classes. I don't know whether all law schools had this in their requirements, but I didn't care. What mattered to me was that attorneys had to develop some discipline. It made sense to me. Rather like Mark Antony, litigators are performers who must influence their audience (judge or jury)to take action, despite the Brutus's around.
The best understand that the script - message - is the least important piece of the experience. Most actors would tell you that the least enjoyable comment they could receive from an admiring audience member is, "How did you remember all those words?"
Instead, it has to do with moving the hearts and minds, especially into action.
Although it must be carefully focused, the attorney's message/script is only as important as the messenger. Yes, the facts must support the intention. However, without a connection to the listeners, a delivery that engages and a mindset focused on what's important, the message is lost.
Careful preparation, repetition and ownership contribute to the attorney's presence. But what tools and strategies support these actions? If the attorney is working on their own without the benefit of having any theatre training and keeping up with that craft, their focus goes simply to the message. This forces attention on only two things: facts and competition. Discovery, research, interviews, exhibits are the technical end. Relying on them to be the means to the end is short-sighted.
It's like an actor showing up with the right props, the right lines, at the right time in the chronological order of the storyline yet failing to listen, to react, or to breathe. The producer might as well print the entire script in the program.
The good news is, attorneys make a difference to juries when they take their time to connect, to deliver something memorable and clear and to stay focused on what's important. This comes from reviewing the artistic elements of courtroom presence. Practicing, committing to becoming effective, all on behalf of the client who needs their legal counselor to make a performance of their lifetime. Because of the impact on them, the client.
Clients want to know that when curtain's up in the courtroom, the butterflies they and their attorneys are experiencing is from excitement about their preparation which works into energy needed for them to stand and deliver.