It doesn’t matter what type of case that you are handling, your tone matters. And as with everything that you do in your professional life, your tone should be purposeful. You can play fast and loose with your tone and emotions when someone else’s future is not at stake (although we don’t advise it), but when you are in court – particularly in cases involving serious injuries or death, your tone and control over your emotions really matters. Let’s look at some of the areas where lawyers play fast and loose with their tone and how it may impact their case.
Considerations in determining the appropriate tone for your case
I truly believe that consistency in tone and the emotions that drive your case are important. If jurors agree with the tone of your case, they accept it and they want to know that they can expect it when they hear from you. This is one of the important considerations that you must have when you are trying a case with another lawyer. If you and another lawyer have vastly different voices in the courtroom, jurors might be taken aback. They might spend valuable emotional energy adapting to another lawyer’s style rather than absorbing the content and facts that are critical to your case. So, be careful in deciding to have co-counsel present part of your case.
Be careful about everything that you do within the presence of jurors to assure consistency with the tone that you believe to be appropriate. Are you smiley when you get nervous? Laugh at inappropriate times when you are nervous? Well, get some counseling first. And second, don’t do that stuff in an around a jury. If those actions aren’t consistent with the tone of your case, you’ll put your credibility at risk.
TONE DURING YOUR CROSS-EXAMINATIONS
Unfortunately, many lawyers default to hyper-aggressive cross-examinations of witnesses. Don’t do this. Be thoughtful, be purposeful, and be dynamic. Adjust your tone according to the actions of the witness. This is the real downside to having a completely scripted cross-examination. Your cross-examination of every witness needs to be flexible enough to permit you to adjust your tone. Before you become hyper-aggressive with a witness, the jury needs to give you permission based upon the actions of the witness.
Distinguish between your law enforcement officers and lay witnesses. In many cases, the tone and tact that you take with law enforcement officers must be vastly different from the tone that you adopt for lay witness examinations. Only in the very exceptional case will jurors give you emotional permission to aggressively cross a lay witness. That is generally not the case with law enforcement officers that jurors will typically hold to a higher standard.
The Sessions Law Firm, LLC
3155 Roswell Rd., Ste. 220
Atlanta, GA 30305
Tel: (470) 225-7710