Becoming Persuasive: A Lawyer’s Guide

Attorney General Tom J Miller speaking at a hearing

Becoming Persuasive: A Lawyer’s Guide

If everything you know about lawyers has come from television and movies, you probably think most of their job is done in the courtroom. It is time to clear up this misconception because this could not be further from the truth. Fewer than ten percent of cases actually go to trial. The majority of criminal defendants enter into a plea bargain, which means the government will either drop certain charges or agree to give the defendant a more lenient sentence so long as they plead guilty. Very few civil cases are decided by a judge or jury because almost all of them end in pre-trial settlements. When attorneys do make it to the courtroom they must have the ability to be persuasive.

Make Eye Contact

When a speaker is able to engage their audience they are more likely to bring them to their feet, opposed to leaving them snoozing in their chair. One of the best ways to obtain a positive response from the audience is for the speaker to make eye contact with as many individuals as they can. Eye contact will remind the people that you are speaking to them and they will listen! Engaging with them with your eyes will allow them to connect with the point that you are making. It is important to make eye contact with the listeners for a few seconds and to then move on, so that you can establish eye contact with the next individual. Staring at one person may make them feel uncomfortable and will leave you with less time to connect with others in the audience. For attorney’s this means they must make eye contact with every jury or judge that are speaking too. Engaging them will help the attorney be more persuasive.

Drop the Tricks

Too many people rely on silly gimmicks or tricks when they are trying to be persuasive and make a point. PowerPoint presentations have been a huge enabler of this. Individuals focus more on making the perfect presentation, rather than being persuasive. If people see potholes in your arguments, you will not persuade them at all. Focus on the points that you want to make and present with the intention to make those points. If you speak to the audience as if you are speaking to a real person, because ultimately you are, then you are more likely to succeed. Lawyers must always remember that judges and the jury are real people too. Speak to them with the intent to make every point that you must make in order to persuade them.