I’m working on a paper about the direct connection between acting, theater, movies, media and trial lawyers. Here is an excerpt for you to think about.
Professionals in the movie and theater business talk about the importance of “stage presence.” The appearance you make and the impression formed by others from seeing and hearing you speak is a stage presence. It is closely related to non verbal communication. Actors must master it and lawyers must learn it as well. All advocacy starts with you and not with some learned technique or memorized speech. What are you projecting to the audience you want to persuade? Do you come across as a friendly, believable, knowledgeable person they can trust? Or do you come across as an poor actor on stage strutting and mouthing words you don’t believe? Have a stage presence. Imagine the courtroom as your room and the people there as your invited guests. Not in an arrogant fashion, but one of projecting you are in control, you are comfortable and Your goal is to have the jury accept that you are a professional who takes your work seriously. You are truthful and someone they can believe as well as trust. Demonstrate to the jury you believe in your client’s case. You are prepared and in control. You treat the judge and your opponent with professional respect.
Your conduct in court must be professional and proper even though you are an advocate for your client. You show the jury by your actions and words that you like your client and believe in their case and you believe in your case.
In his book, Old Man in a Baseball Cap, Fred Rochlin worte: “The greatest gift we can give one another is to share ourselves. To do that we must take the mask off and then take off the mast under that one.” The actor must strip away the layers of himself or herself in order to totally step inside of the character they are playing. If we are going to be great trial lawyers we must strip away all the layers and show the jury our true selves warts, scars and all. We too, must learn to step inside our clients and project them to the jury in an honest truthful manner. To do that, we have to drop the guarded image of ourselves and be real. The hardest battle you are ever going to fight is the battle to be just you. Think about how you present yourself. Are you friendly? Do you conduct yourself as you would with guests in your home you want to feel comfortable, to like you and to want to come back again? You need to communicate trustworthiness, warmth and sincere belief in what you are representing to them.
Learn how to deal with your nervousness, your fear and your apprehension. Accept that these three horseman of insecurity are part of you. All actors face the same challenge but learn to do their role in spite of it. Learn techniques of doing your work in spite of these challenges. In fact, learn to use them to better your performance.
Great actors learn how to adopt their character in such a way they become the character. They project complete sincerity and credibility of impression about their character. In representing our clients, we need to apply the same skills in a truthful honest way. We know from studies that have been done that credibility is a key factor in persuasion.Credibility is composed primarily of (1) trust (2) competence and (3) likability. One must project belief in the case and commitment to the client as part of this impression.
Let’s learn what there is to learn from the world of the theater and movies that will make us better advocates for our clients.