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  • Writer's pictureBrian Foley

Montgomery County Criminal Defense Attorney - Trial Tips - Look, but don't talk like a lawyer.

Montgomery County Criminal Defense Attorney - Brian Foley - Board Certified in Criminal Law.

Todays article could be applied to any criminal or civil case. If we are going to trial on a criminal case that means in some sense we have failed. Most cases do not go to a trial. Many times a dismissal or an acceptable punishment agreement can be reached through negotiation. But sometimes the priorities of the client are incompatible with the view of the prosecutor on the case and a trial is unavoidable.

Me personally? I like Trial. I love the opportunity to speak in front of 60 or more jurors in Voir Dire and do my best to slowly win them over to my view of the case. It is a challenge, it is fun, it is physically and mentally draining. It is the main reason many of us became interested in being lawyers in the first place. When someone thinks of a lawyer they think of what they do in the courtroom during a trial. This mental image of a lawyer that every juror comes into court with is what I use to create a trial strategy or presentation.

Look like a Lawyer but don't talk like one.

I think the best trial strategy advice that I can give in a general sense is that the jury is going to start making decisions and opinions about the case and the lawyers almost immediately. They will start to judge you before you open your mouth. They will watch you come into the courtroom and see how you interact with the bailiff and the other attorney. They will see if you look like their conception of a Lawyer that they see on television. There are some newer shows out there but I still think that Law and Order is the standard for how a lawyer should act and dress. Few of us look like movie stars but we can all make extra effort to have gotten a hair cut, shaved, and gotten a recently laundered suit and shirt to put on. When they are making this initial judgement of you they are going to be looking to see if you look professional in your dress but also in how your materials are laid out.

Maybe you have boxes and boxes of evidence which you want to show the jury is overflowing. That's fine. But make sure that you are doing this in an intentional way. If your materials are not organized and look cluttered and messy then I think the jury will start to lose faith that you have turned every stone and have ultimate control of the facts.

While I firmly believe that you should look like a lawyer don't talk like one. Use plain words. Call a Car a car and not a "motor vehicle." If you are thinking about saying a word with more than three syllables then think again. You want the jury to believe that you are smart and knowledgeable about the case but you don't want them to think that you are a stuck up lawyer that isn't in touch with every day life. Nobody likes people who think they're the smartest person in the room. If you talk like a lawyer you are at high risk of appearing like you think you're the smartest person in the room. You want the jury to decide for themselves that you're the smartest person in the room and worthy of trust. You do this by speaking plainly and clearly about everything from the beginning. The fastest way to screw this up is by trying to tackle a difficult legal theory or topic in jury selection. Try explaining your case to someone who isn't a lawyer and see what they say. If they can understand your arguments from beginning to end without much explanation I think you're in good shape. If you get bogged down on one particular topic with them you are likely to get bogged down in jury selection.

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