It's been said for years that when it comes to closing argument, rhetorical flourish is out and common speech is in. Like closing argument, techniques of cross-examination must also adapt to changing times. I recently heard a lawyer talking about one of the "dinosaurs of the bar," a long-time trial lawyer with a long string of victories, who now tends to alienate jurors in the way he "beats up" on witnesses in the "old style," often taking days to complete a cross-examination.
There's no doubt that there are many styles of cross-examination, some work better than others, and each must be carefully selected to suit the occasion. In an article that appeared in Lawyers Weekly USA on April 26, 2004, Nora Lockwood Tooher argued that "the current era of tort 'reform'" also requires lawyers to rethink their cross-examination styles:
In the current era of tort "reform," many jurors enter the courtroom with a negative stereotype of plaintiffs' lawyers . . . That means that those attorneys who add too much flourish to their questioning of hostile witnesses run the risk of falling into that stereotype and alienating jurors.
The article is titled, "Trial Lawyers' New Cross-Examination Weapon: Sincerity." Unfortunately, it's available only to subscribers, who can look here for the full text. Just the short snippet that's quoted here, though, makes a point worth thinking about.