The Secret Sauce for Courtroom Victory

The past few weeks of sports have delivered some incredible highs and lows.

Like millions of other fans, I stayed awake into the early morning hours, captivated by the cliffhanger ending of Game 7.

Harry Caray calls Game 7

(I’m not crying… You’re crying!)

I guess I’ve been a Cubs fan since I was a little kid.

We lived near McHenry, Illinois and my dad loaded up the van with all of the neighborhood kids to take us to Wrigley Field.

I still remember walking into the stadium and experiencing everything for the first time.

The sights, the smells, the excitement leading up to the game… It was a great memory.

It was the first baseball stadium I’d ever been in, the first major sporting event I’d ever been to, and I loved it.

I fell in love with baseball.

My parents were even cool enough (and patient enough) to take me to a Dairy Queen near Chicago where we waited in line for HOURS so I could get Dave Kingman’s autograph. (Keep in mind, this was back around 1979, when he made the All-Star team and was the NL home run leader – he was a rock-star and a living legend!)

Yup, I loved baseball.

But then, something odd happened.

In 1994, they cancelled the World Series because the players went on strike.

They turned their back on me (and millions of other fans), so I turned my back on them.

Other than going with my family to see a game in Yankee Stadium before they moved into their new stadium (my dad and my brothers have been Yankees fans their entire lives, so it was a great experience), I doubt I’ve watched even a dozen games (including Wednesday’s World Series finale) in the past twenty years.

It makes me sad to write that, because I used to care so much about baseball.

But once trust is broken, it’s almost impossible to regain it.

Compare baseball’s level of trust to the level of trust created by the person in the next sporting story.

On the other end of the emotional spectrum, in September we heard the sad news that golfing legend Arnold Palmer had passed away.

Arnold Palmer was a legend.

My interest in golf started when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, after we moved to Florida. We lived near Palm Beach Gardens ("The Golf Capital of the World"), so I saved my allowance, bought a starter set (only 5 clubs: 9W, 7W, 5W, D, Putter!) and got the chance to join my dad on some of the best golf courses in the country.

The lucky thing about living near the PGA Championship Course is that I had the opportunity to see some of the best golfers in the world. I saw the 1983 Ryder Cup, and I got to walk the course following golf legends like Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Gary Player.

But Arnold Palmer was different.

When Palmer was playing, you could tell at an instant which hole was at, because there were more crowds following him than any of the other players.

They called it "Arnie’s Army."

It didn’t matter whether he was leading or trailing…

He always had a crowd.

That’s because people loved him.

In one chance encounter, I quickly found out why.

I was probably 11 years old, and watching the players warm up at the driving range. As they finished up and walked out the practice area, I would ask for autographs. This was before celebrity "selfies," and almost everyone was kind enough to sign my little autograph book.

As one of the players finished, I asked him for an autograph.

He brushed me off.

And it wasn’t just a brush offf… It was rude enough that other people took notice.

One of the people who noticed was a fellow player on the practice tee.

From behind me, I heard a kind voice say, "I wouldn’t mind signing your autograph book, if you’d like."

When I turned around, it was Arnold Palmer.

THE Arnold Palmer!

I was awestruck.

He was bigger than life, and when he signed my autograph book, he made me feel like the most important person on the planet.

That entire encounter probably took all of 15 seconds, but it’s been indelibly etched in my mind for these past 30+ years.

But there’s nothing unique about that experience. I bet he probably had encounters like that every day of his life, touching people in some small way, making them feel important and special.

That’s why he had "Arnie’s Army" and that why he was so celebrated.

That’s why the other golfer, despite his fame and his skill, never enjoyed the types of crowds or the legacy that Palmer did.

(There’s no need to mention the other golfer’s name, but don’t worry, it wasn’t any of the ones I’ve mentioned in this article.)

The Trial Lawyer Lesson

If you’re still reading, you’re probably going, "Those are nice stories, but so what? Where’s the tip that helps me become a better trial lawyer?"

Here it is:

To win the jury, you must earn (and keep) their trust.

Your ability to persuade jurors never relies solely upon your courtroom skills.

You can practice your opening statements, examinations, and closing arguments until you’ve honed them to a fine edge.

You can work with your witnesses until they have the oratory skills of Cicero.

But if jurors don’t trust you, or if they don’t trust your witness, you won’t win.

(Remember Aristotle and the ol’ logos, pathos, and ethos trilogy?!?)

At the beginning, jurors don’t trust you…

Other lawyers don’t trust you…

Even your own client might not trust you.

Trust can be difficult to earn, but if you are the type of person who is trustworthy, if you’re the type of person who radiates character, then you can earn their trust.

You can’t fake it – you’re either trustworthy, or you’re not.

(Think about that for awhile… If you’re not happy with your answer, you might want to change a few things in your life).

But even if you’re trustworthy, and even if you earn the jurors’ trust, you will lose it in an instant with a misrepresentation or a stupid mistake, so be careful with what you say and mindful of how you say it.

Be honest, be trustworthy, and keep the jurors’s trust. That’s the secret sauce to persuasion.

The Power of Intolerance

Music is powerful.

If I’m running and feeling tired, all I need to do is put on Eye of the Tiger (free download if you have Amazon Prime Music) and I can get a little extra burst of energy to run faster and further than I thought I could. (One of my absolute all-time workout favorites is Sandstorm by Darude, but unfortunately that one’s not a freebie).

Why can I run faster and farther when I have a great song pumping in my ears?

It’s not voodoo or witchcraft. I already had the energy to do it, it’s just that the music triggers an emotional reaction and pushes me a little further.

Music is powerful, and if we can tap into even a little bit of its emotional power in the courtroom, it’s worth doing.

The important part is to know what music is going to resonate with your jurors. Not everybody likes the same music, and it’s not always easy to gauge which music moves people best.

Take me for example.

I’ve got SiriusXM in the car, so whenever I’m not listening to practice-specific CLE materials (which is almost all the time… there’s SO MUCH good stuff out there!) I’m flipping between the electronic/dance/chill stations and the “music by decades” stations, usually the “80’s on 8” channel.

The electronic/dance/chill stations might surprise you. After all, I’ve got salt and pepper hair (I keep denying that the grey hairs are there, but they are), so it might seem unusual that I’d be listening to music with a 160-180bpm pulse.

But the 80’s station shouldn’t be a surprise at all, and I’ll tell you why in a second.

First, it’s because the “80’s on 8” station plays only songs from 1980-1989, and there is some great stuff to be found there:

· “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel
· “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran
· “She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby
(All of the links in this article are to free download links if you have the Amazon Prime music app)

But the real reason why I keep gravitating back to the 1980’s music is actually based in science and psychology.

In case you were looking for a new and interesting way to connect with your jurors, you can glean a little extra knowledge about juror psychology by checking out this Huffington Post article, “Here’s How Your Taste In Music Evolves As You Age, According To Science.”

In the article, they say that for most people, our interest in popular music peaks around age 33. More importantly, “It seems that taste crystalizes around the music one is exposed to from around 16-24 years of age,” Dr. Adrian North, who heads the School of Psychology at Curtain University in Australia.

That’s why I like the 80’s music, and that’s why you like whatever generation of music you grew up with.

But what does that mean for you in the courtroom?

It means that if you know your jurors’ ages, you can throw in little song snippets to make a subtle emotional connection with them.

It’s not going to win the case or make the juror fall in love with you, but anytime you get a chance to make another emotional connection with a juror, you should grab it, and music is one of the easiest ways to spark an emotional reaction.

How old are your jurors?

When did their taste in music probably chrystalize?

What were the most popular songs from that time frame that they would know by heart and instantly recognize?

Knowing these types of things are basics for understanding your jury and being able to conduct a quick “cold read” of each juror. (By the way, if you’re looking for a great tutorial on doing quick cold readings like this, there are a few fun references worth checking out. The first is Steve Martin’s performance in Leap of Faith, where he plays a con-man traveling faith healer. It’s not exactly a tutorial, but it’s worth watching. The second is The Full Facts Book Of Cold Reading by Ian Rowland, which will lay out all of the routines you need to become a psychic).

For example, I told you that my favorite genre is 80’s music. If your closing centers on a premature decision made by a party (before they had all the facts) and you’re trying to convince me that someone should have held back for a second before “rushing to judgment,” you could weave in the phrase, “Relax… Don’t do it, when you want to go it.” (Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood) and I’d make the connection.

Prosecuting a stalking case? An understated, “Every breath you take, every move you make… I’ll be watching you” would perk up my ears. (Every Breath You Take by the Police).

(I guess you could also use “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell).

Anyway, you get the point… You can weave in little references gauged to your jurors’ musical tastes and enjoy a small emotional connection. You could do the same thing with movie references or pop-culture references, too.

Like I said, it won’t win the day, but it may be the little extra bit that you need to make an emotional connection with a juror or to re-grab their attention so they start listening to you again.

To wrap it up, I want to share with you one of the important lessons that you will ever learn in this newsletter.

Strangely enough, I learned it from this guy:

That guy is Ivan Doroschuk, and he was the lead singer of Men Without Hats. They achieved fame and fortune in 1983 when they hit the charts with one of my favorite songs, “The Safety Dance.”

Here’s the important lesson that they shared:

“We can dance if we want to, we can leave your friends behind…
’cause your friends don’t dance, and if they don’t dance,
Well, they’re no friends of mine.”

I absolutely love that lyric… “cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance, well they’re no friends of mine.”

The power of the lyric is that it tells us the importance of being INTOLERANT.

The word “intolerance” usually has a negative connotation to it. If you refuse to put someone on your jury because of their sex or their race or their sexual orientation, you’re a bigot, and you deserve to lose every case you try.

That’s not the type of intolerance that I’m talking about.

The intolerance that I’m talking about is being completely intolerant of people and things that cripple your productivity, ruin your chances of winning a case, or deprive you of the lifestyle you desire.

You must be intolerant of those things.

If a client demands all of your free time, calls you at odd hours and makes unreasonable demands, you can’t accept it. You must be intolerant. You need to either fire the client or change the client’s behavior. If you don’t, not only will you lose your sanity, but you’ll end up doing a sub-standard job for your other clients, too.

(My dad has a great rule: “Never have a client that you can’t afford to fire.” Never let one client become the sole or majority source of your income, or else you’ll be held slave to their whims. More importantly, if they decide to take their business someplace else or if they fall apart, you’re dead.)

If a potential juror hijacks the entire conversation and prevents you from conducting an effective voir dire, you can’t accept that, either. You must be intolerant, and take back control of the conversation. If you don’t, you’ll lose the panel and you’ll lose the case.

You should be intolerant of injustice, too. That’s why we do what we do for a living. We fight injustice. We level the playing field. If we tolerate injustice for even an instant, it creeps into our lives and becomes a permanent part of the fabric of society. We must be constantly vigilant to protect our clients and ourselves from injustice.

Intolerance is not a bad thing. There are things which you MUST NOT ACCEPT.

Poor performance, tardiness, cheating…. Whatever hurts you and your firm, it cannot be tolerated. Don’t give an inch on the principles that truly matter to you. Let the world know what you will and will not accept, because surprisingly, it will often give you exactly what you ask for.

Performing Under Pressure

The Secrets to Performing Under Pressure

Parallel parking.

If you work in a major city, it’s something that you probably do every day.

For example, here’s a picture of where I parked my car outside the courthouse just the other day:

Nothing special about it, right?

Sure, the car is a little longer than the average sedan, but there’s still plenty of distance between my car and the cars in front and behind.

There’s absolutely no reason for me to be nervous about parking the car in that space, right?

And usually, I’d agree with you.

Normally, I would park the car in a spot that size without even thinking twice.

But this time, I hesitated, and almost had second thoughts about parking in that spot.

Maybe it will sense once you see the full view of where I was parking:

That’s right… The spot where I was going to park was in-between two police cars.

Even though it was a normal parking job, it didn’t feel normal, because of the extra pressure weighing on the situation. Of all the different cars in the world that you don’t want to accidentally bump into, “police car” ranks near the top of the list.

(Also on the list: Rolls Royce, Ferrari, and anything owned by a Mob Boss)

Nothing was different about the actual facts… The traffic, the size of the parking spot, the length of the car, etc… All of those facts were exactly the same.

It was just the perception of everything that was magnified because of the types of cars involved. Suddenly, it felt like this was going to be much more difficult that it actually was.

The same is true for your trials.

Pre-trial preparation, jury selection, opening statements… The same techniques apply in every type of case.

But when you’re involved with a high-stakes trial, a high-publicity trial, or dealing with a legendary opponent, it feels like the case is different.

Just remember: It’s not.

Trust your training, and trust your skills.

The same winning advocacy techniques that you’ve successfully relied upon in other cases work here, too. Be confident. You can pull this off. Just take a deep breath and remind yourself, “This is a trial… I know how this works. I’ve been here before. I’ve won cases before. And I can win this one, too.”

The pressure makes the case feel different, but don’t let it negatively affect your composure or case presentation.

If you can’t perform under pressure, you shouldn’t be in this line of work. Every client, regardless of whether they have the lowliest dog-bite case or a ground-breaking human rights issue, deserves your professionalism and highest effort.

When pressure rears its ugly head, keep calm, maintain your composure, and keep your focus. You can do this. You’ll soon realize that this case isn’t really any different from the other cases you’ve tried, and you’ll put yourself in the best position to successfully bring home the winning verdict.