Competence & Confidence: Body Language and Other Tips for Professional Poise
Make yourself a commanding presence in the courtroom by conveying confidence
Practicing law involves a lot of different elements and skill sets; a good attorney is inquisitive, assertive, and thorough; is a good orator, an effective researcher, and is skilled at adeptly maneuvering through various forms of dialog. However, conquering in the courtroom (and in life, actually) is often influenced by the ability to convey confidence.
Memorizing statutes and learning case law can be challenging, but doesn’t feel as personal as cultivating confidence. On the surface, it seems like confidence is something you either innately possess or that you acquire from years of experience and a series of personal successes. That’s not necessarily true, though. While those things are certainly helpful, a confident countenance is a skill like any other, and will soon become second nature if you invest time and effort into fully developing it.
Body language and personal appearance often speak as much, or more, than words ever can. Even the smallest detail can skew a person’s perspective of who you are and how you carry yourself.
Clothes should always be clean and pressed, shoes un-scuffed and polished, nails and hair groomed – there’s no such thing as casual in the courtroom. Purchase one or two good suits, and a nice pair of shoes in both brown and black if money is tight as you first start off practicing law. Justify the cost of these essentials – and the dry-cleaning bills that come with wrinkle-free clothes – as the investment that they are.
Once you’re well dressed, it’s time to impress. Never underestimate the importance of good posture and outward composure. Studies show that 90 percent of human communication is nonverbal – these off-the-cuff judgments are part of our biological instinct of assessing potential allies and threats. Use that to your advantage when it comes to prospective clients, opposing counsel, the judge, and the jury.
Walk tall: Good posture has been pressed upon most of us from well-meaning mothers throughout our lifetimes, but it’s easy to let it slip. Draw your stomach in, your shoulders back, and lengthen your spine. It may not feel quite natural, but it gives off an air of strength and self-control.
Neutral expression: Although it feels like an odd thing to do, watch your neutral face in the mirror. Do you look calm? Pleasant? Practice smiling without smiling; just a slight lift of the corners of your mouth that will help you seem unstressed and not threatened or threatening.
Eye contact: Looking directly at people makes you seem honest and certain about what you’re saying. Make a point of making eye contact during introductions, take the time to make sure jurors feel seen instead of skimmed over – in fact, making people feel acknowledged goes a long way in earning their trust and affection. Approach people with an open, friendly demeanor, regardless of what role they play in the trial or how you feel about them personally.
Preparation is everything
Another important aspect of developing confidence happens through preparation. Competence begets confidence. When you truly know a subject, it’s easier to speak about it with assurance so pursue knowledge related to your area of practice with a passion at every opportunity, and prepare for every case as if your entire career depends on this one outcome.
Doing your due diligence is obviously important, but so is staying organized and knowing that you’re ready for anything.
Develop routines around how you prepare for trial, not just during the research portion but before the actual event. Review your material thoroughly, but then take some time to work out, go for a walk, or meditate to collect yourself. Practice calming breaths in the car or indulge in a stop at your favorite coffee shop before pulling into the courtroom. Give yourself a pep talk before pulling your shoulders back and striding into court like you already know the outcome.
Confidence isn’t as nebulous as it seems; certain characteristics or traits help paint the picture of personal strength and surety and anyone with the willingness or desire can practice until those tell-tale signs become part of their character. Also, as with many things in life, there’s some wisdom in the old adage, “fake it ’til you make it.” Act confident, mimic the behaviors of people you admire as such, and eventually your own confidence in your abilities will develop in an authentic way that others will emulate.
Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!