Can you take steps to make your client more likeable to the jury? While some people are inherently unlikable, even these sorry cases can be taught how to avoid a few mistakes that will guarantee their unlikability:
- Being Discourteous to Counsel or the Court Most people know not to talk back to the judge, but they shouldn't talk back to opposing counsel either. When answering questions on cross-examination, it usually pays to keep one's cool. Becoming angry is almost always a mistake.
- Failing to Answer Questions Directly Proper questions put to your client by opposing counsel should be answered directly. It's a mistake to answer a different, imaginary question that wasn't asked. Not only does it amount to volunteering, which is never a good idea, but it makes your client appear to be evasive.
- Trying to Explain Too Much Explaining too much also makes your client appear evasive. Clients should be instructed that you will have a chance for rebuttal after the cross-examination is over. This will give them a chance to explain.
- Exaggerating Small Details Clients often want to exaggerate small details. If your opposing counsel is skilled, however, it won't be hard for him to turn this small exaggeration into a big lie. Warn your client against exaggerations.
- Refusing to Yield on Uncontroverted Facts There are bad facts in every case. While you undoubtedly have a plan to minimize these bad facts, it won't help if your client draws undue attention to them by refusing to admit the truth on cross-examination. Let your client know ahead of time why the bad facts won't destroy the case.
- Failing to Look at the Jury Looking at the jury doesn't come naturally to most people. You can help by standing at the corner of the jury box when asking questions. When answering, your client will be facing the jury in a way that won't looked forced.