March 21, 2013
You may be nervous. You may be pumped. You may be shaking like a leaf. You may be punching the air with your fists like Rocky. Or you may be somewhere in between.
Wherever you are on a day you are going to court, you may not find yourself in the ideal frame of mind – cool, calm, confident and collected. Maybe it is because you slept like a baby the night before (an attorney pal of mine says he always sleeps like a baby before a big trial – cries for an hour, sleeps for an hour, cries for an hour, sleeps for an hour). But maybe it is because you are in the habit of psyching yourself up or terrifying yourself or in some other way preparing not your best but your worst self for court today.
Try this new routine.
- When You Wake Up, Get In The Shower. Don’t hop up and sit yourself down in front of the computer or pour yourself a cup of Joe. Not yet. Warm up your voice and body in a hot shower. Release those muscles. Yawn and hum and get that voice going. Remember, you may be brilliant, but the thing that houses that brilliant brain (your body) and expresses it (your voice) need to be at the ready. Shake out your arms. Roll your neck. Let this be your way of getting into your body and voice instead of your head.
- At Breakfast: Read The Newspaper Out Loud. You are going to be reading documents, at the very least, out loud today. You might not have practiced this as much as you should have. That’s okay. Reading something out loud you have never read before reminds you that you need to slow down, articulate, make sense of what you are reading and breathe.
- Tell Your Loved Ones: The Story Of Your Case In 10 Words. Find ten words that express your message, your theme, the essence of what your case is about. “Company breaks laws and employees lives. Tell them not here!” for example. “Workers bite then destroy hand that feeds them. Stop them!” for the opposite example. As you do this, look your loved ones in the eyes. Make sure you are talking like a person – you are acting like a human being – instead of a raving, self righteous lunatic, no matter how intense your message. Family members are good at saying, “Dad, do you know when your voice squeaks like that your eyebrows twitch?” This exercise both warms up your demeanor and it warms up your laser sharp focus on this case.
- In The Car: Listen to the Radio – 3 Stations.Radio Station One: Your Favorite Tunes. First hum to the tunes, and work your way into singing. My favorite songs are Broadway Showtunes (Duh-I know). This warms up your range, your pitch, your highs your lows.
Radio Station Two: The Talk Radio Show You Hate. Listen to your least favorite talk radio personality. Turn the station off. Calmly and brilliantly deliver a perfect counter. This warms up your reasonable arguer.
With radio down, start saying the hardest words you will have to deliver in your case. Use them for your tongue-twisters and way of warming up your articulators (lips, teeth, tip of tongue). This will not only keep you from tripping over those words (estoppel-estoppel-estoppel) but will remind you to speak clearly and articulately.
Radio Station Three: Peaceful Meditative Music. Breathe, breathe, breathe. Shoulders down, body relaxed.Create a physical memory of breathing and calming yourself down that you can bring back to mind and to body if and when you get bent out of shape or too “enthusiastic” in court. Say your ten words again. See how cool, calm, collected and confident you are?
Breathe. Park the car.
- The Walk: Smile and Breathe. Can you keep that breath going? Can you smile at everyone you meet and make eye contact with them? Can you greet people (talk) and breathe and walk at the same time? Can you stay out of your head and connected to other people? That’s a good thing to be able to do in court, isn’t it? Aren’t you glad you are already doing it?
- In the Courtroom: Talk to Someone. Greet someone – bailiff, clerk, assistant to judge, opposing counsel – let yourself hear your voice in that room. Talking. Acting like a person. Breathing. Now…it’s your turn. Find a pair of eyes – judge or juror – ready, set – breathe. Talk.
Congratulations. You are developing a new good habit. After the day is over no doubt you will be analyzing what went well and poorly in court. Why not also check on how this new habit is going? The good news is – you get to do it all again. If you are lucky, maybe even tomorrow.