When Pressured, Pivot

When I played high school basketball, I was very ineffective. Although I could shoot, pass and dribble, I hadn’t developed the skill of responding to defenders. I never learned the art of pivoting.

Without this, I was often cornered, trapped or forced to lose the ball. I wasn’t considered first string, for my ineffective handling of pressure was a contributor.

This memory comes to mind because recently someone in my network was talking about her need to pivot when handling tough situations. And I realized it is often in need in cases unfolding at trial. Attorneys may be generally good at case preparation, but if either side feels pressure, stress ensues and their influence is hampered. However, if they respond to the pressure by pivoting, they create enough time and space for themselves to resume their drive.


Similar to playing basketball, trial attorneys expect resistance to come their way. When it does, they can respond instinctually (with fight or flight) and risk losing the case or they can respond with finesse. By pivoting.

Here pivoting means redirecting your focus from your anxiety to what you’re good at. What you’re good at will ultimately carry you through the moment.

Consider the basketball rules of pivoting:

When feeling trapped,
1. Firmly plant a foot.
2. Pivot (adjust) the other one. This gives you space to maneuver around a defender.

The courtroom rules of pivoting are the same:
When feeling pressured,
1. Firmly plant yourself so you can think before you speak.
2. Adjust your focus from your anxiety, to what you’re good at. That will carry you through the moment into safe territory.

Calm in the court is all about focusing on the basics – your need to ask questions, your focus on defending your client and your skills in doing so. In this case, when pressured, pivot.

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On March 23rd, 2012, posted in: courtroom, pressure by