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Tips for Clients Entering the Courtroom

Recently I was in court in the middle of a hearing when the judge called for a brief recess. She called opposing counsel and I back to her office and then proceeded to let us know what she thought should happen and the settlement she wanted us to talk to our clients about. What was interesting was that she had only heard from my client. How could she have had an opinion based off of only one of the parties testifying?

Body language. While she listened to what my client had to say and how she answered the questions she was carefully watching the husband sitting at the table in front of her. She noticed the way he seemed to be making faces at my client on the stand, she noticed the words he was mouthing to my client, the way he shook his head vehemently and the scowls at some of the responses to questions my client gave. She was not impressed. You see, she didn't need to hear what he had to say because she was reading his body language.

The lesson is that it is not just what you say that is important. Keep your body language in check. Some suggestions:

  • Try not to make faces even when something is said that makes you angry or frustrated.
  • Don't whisper to your lawyer. This is distracting and with microphones you risk the judge hearing what you don't want heard. If you must let your lawyer know something write it on paper and slip the paper to him or her.
  • Don't stare at the witnesses testifying. Judges pick up on parties trying to bully witnesses on the stand simply by their demeanor.
  • Do not sigh, grunt, or make other audible noises. This is a great way to make a judge angry.
  • Remember that the judge is already making decisions about what to do with your case before you even testify. How you look and present yourself in court really does matter.