Confidence in Asking

When I started observing jury trials to coach attorneys in confidence and influence, I enjoyed watching opposing attorney communication style and quickly learned a few key things. In general, those who were prepared – mentally and logically – demonstrated the most confidence. But I was thrown by the shift in a confident lawyer’s approach when he/she switched from the prepared questions to the follow-ups.

Any good attorney will say, “never ask a question you don’t know the answer to”. But great ones know there are times to ask the questions you don’t know the answer to. During voir dire.

Do you understand them, individually?
Like someone pitching a sale, attorneys need to use the process “Seek to understand and then to be understood” during the jury selection/deselection process. This means get the jurists, like prospects, to talk. Introverts, this is something you can be really good at. The more others talk, the less you have to.

When giving sales pitches or demonstrations with my audiences, I have failed if all I do is seek a show of hands. Equally poor is a well-placed question to a jurist without appropriate follow-up. Is it better to know or not to know someone’s bias? If it’s better to know, – and of course it is – then it’s appropriate to dig deeply enough to uncover a bias during voir dire.

Follow your instincts. Practice asking the tough questions. Discover what’s being covered up. Seek to understand those who have the power to decide your case. Introverts, if you need to take a moment to word the next question, simply state, “give me just a moment”. Do not move on without asking it. Extroverts, remember your time asking questions about the jury is not about you. Seek to understand those deciding your case.

The confidence we have in asking the tough questions is proportionate to the respect and admiration onlookers will have for us. If our questions lead to uncomfortable candidate moments during voir dire, selection/deselection is that much easier. You need to know who is going to give you the best hearing.

Begin Practicing Today
So put into practice today your willingness to follow up with meaningful questions. Choose people on which to practice this process. Those close to you, who understand your career, could be ones to regularly test your skills on. Get comfortable with following your instincts and asking the deeper, more insightful questions.

The more confident you are in asking the difficult questions, the more influential you will be. Your case, and maybe your client, depends on it.

Share Button
On March 27th, 2012, posted in: asking questions, confidence, extroverts, introverts, voir dire by