Understanding the basic rules and aspects of advocacy can prepare you to be a much better advocate for your client.
photo credit: Steve Punter
It is commonly assumed that the purpose of a trial is to discover the truth. This is actually not the primary purpose of a trial. As an advocate, one of your primary responsibilities is to convince the fact finders, whether that happens to be a jury or a single judge, to arrive at a specific opinion; one that favors your client. Of course, this certainly does not mean that you have free reign to do anything or be dishonest. It does mean that you should understand that the primary objective of any trial is to advocate for an opinion in favor of your client; not necessarily the ultimate truth.
In advocating for a client, your best opportunities will come from understanding that humans perceive far more information through video than audio. The majority of the information we collect on a daily basis occurs through eyesight; not through hearing. Most people are surprised to learn that only 10% of a message actually stems from words while an astounding 60% of a message is received through visual appearance and body language.
Furthermore, only 10% of what a person hears is actually recalled later.
What does this mean for you as an advocate and for your client? First, it means that you must always dress appropriately. Second, you must be cognizant of how closely you appear to be associated with your opponent. You absolutely cannot be seen to be too friendly with the opposition. Third, if you are going to joke, laugh or smile you must make sure you include the jury. Otherwise; simply do not do it.
Furthermore, always make sure you are sincere and always be certain you are fully aware of your visual signals. You should never convey any visual signals without intending to do so.
Finally, remember that eye contact is golden. You should never overdo it, but maintaining regular glances with your fact finders can help you to stay in touch and receive critical feedback.
This may not come as much of a surprise to most lawyers, but most people generally do not like lawyers. People have an inherent distrust of lawyers. As a result, it is imperative that you stick to the truth and always ensure you believe what you are asking the jury or the judge to believe. This is one of the most important rules you can follow as an advocate.
Reference: Common Sense Rules of Advocacy, by Keith Evans, Chapter 2: The Dimensions of Advocacy.
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