70% of all communication is non-verbal, but most of my clients don’t know how to use body language to their advantage.
Have you wondered what you’re telling people without speaking? Do you know how to use body language to win in Court? We’ve already discussed effective trial testimony, but you need to know how to use body language when you aren’t on the stand because it is just as important.
Use body language to be boring
When it comes to courtroom attire, standing out is a bad thing. In Court, you want your story and your facts to be the sole focus of the judge or jury. If the judge or jury is focused on what you’re wearing, then they aren’t paying attention to your testimony or your evidence. This is how you use body language to avoid making statements that you don’t intend to make.
Wear boring colors and patterns
Bright flashy colors are strictly off limits. Certain colors convey certain emotions. Red conveys anger and aggression. You don’t want the judge or jury to associate that emotion with you and your testimony. Yellow is a cheerful color that conveys optimism. Very few people are cheerful and optimistic about having to go to trial and you don’t want to give that impression.
You want to wear dark blues or medium/light grays while in court. These colors convey strength and wisdom.
Also, do not wear animal prints or crazy patterns. Unless you’re Carole Baskin, do not wear leopard print to Court! You should only wear solid color shirts, suits, and blouses if you want to use body language to win.
Wear boring jewelry
Flashy and expensive jewelry is a big no-no unless your case relies upon you looking rich and not needing money. But let’s be honest. If you’re going to court, then there is likely no benefit to you looking wealthy.
If you’ve been injured in a car wreck and you’re suing the reckless driver, then looking like you don’t need very much money is a fast way to guarantee that the judge/jury doesn’t give you as much money.
On the other hand, if you’re the reckless driver who’s being sued, then you definitely don’t want to look like you have a lot of money to spare. If you do, then that’s a fast way to guarantee that the judge/jury takes some of it to give it to the injured driver.
If you choose simple stud earrings, solid wedding bands, or even no jewelry, then you can use body language to your advantage.
Win in Court by being quietly engaged
In court, you’re under a microscope. Every move you make is closely scrutinized whether you’re on the witness stand or simply sitting at the counsel table. You can use body language to boost your credibility by remaining engaged in the process without being a distraction.
Take lots of notes
Imagine with me for a moment a Plaintiff and a Defendant in Court. One is sitting there staring at their water while the other is watching the witness on the witness stand, writing notes on their yellow legal pad, and reviewing their binder of exhibits. Did you know that most people consider the less engaged party to be more guilty and/or less truthful?
Remember back to when you saw a child, or you might even just consider your own children, and when they were caught in a lie or caught doing something they knew they weren’t supposed to be doing. How did they look? They would sheepishly look at the ground, not make eye contact, and weren’t generally engaged in the conversation. That’s the body language that you’re trying to avoid displaying.
The easiest way to stay engaged is to take notes. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you write, just keep writing. My personal recommendation is to quickly summarize the testimony from the witness in just a few words. It will help you to remember what was said later on if you have to refer back.
But you’re not limited to writing down testimony as you should also write down questions that you think that your attorney should still ask. Before I finish with a witness, I will always take a moment to lean over to my client to ask if there was anything else that I may have missed. That brings me to my next point.
Pass notes to your attorney
I can tell you from experience that it is impossible to listen to the witness give their answer while also listening to clients ask questions. Not only does your attorney have to listen to the witness’s answer, but they also have to process that information and develop their next question.
Additionally, if you try talking to your attorney, there’s a very high likelihood that the judge/jury could overhear your conversation. Even if they do not overhear it, the simply fact remains that the time that the two of you spend talking is a full stop to the proceedings and is a bit disruptive to the flow. If you want to use body language to your advantage, then you have to avoid this disruption.
The best practice is to pass a note to your attorney instead of trying to speak with them during trial.
So, if your attorney leans over to ask you if you’ve missed anything, then this is where you slide over the list of questions that you’ve been writing as the testimony went on.
Practice good posture
Imagine with me again the Plaintiff and Defendant sitting in Court. One of them is sitting up straight while the other one is slouched down in their chair. Which one of them is displaying confidence in their case with their body language, and which one is displaying defeat?
You might not think that your posture in Court is important, but if you want to use body language to win in court, then your posture is the easiest thing that you can immediately correct. Improve your posture and you’ll exhibit confidence, strength, and honesty.
Win in Court by being Proactive, not Reactive
When you’re in Court and under the microscope, the judge or jury will be watching to see how you react to testimony and evidence. You can use body language to your advantage and avoid accidentally telling them more than you intend to.
When you’re in Court, you’re going to hear people lie on the witness stand. They may be intentionally lying or simply telling a different side of the same story that you know to be the truth. Either way, your natural reaction to hearing them lie will be noticeable to anyone watching you. It is usually a gasp, vigorous headshaking, or just a look of disgust on your face.
In order to use body language to win in Court, you need to expect the unexpected. Prior to each witness taking the stand, imagine them saying three of the worst things that would be the most damaging to your case. Taking this approach will mentally prepare you for any negative testimony so you do not physically react.
This is where your note taking will really come in handy. When you hear the witness say something false, there’s no benefit to you writing in your notes, “she’s lying!” Having a whole page of that line is of no benefit to your attorney.
If the witness said, “The light was green” then you should write, “She said the light was green, but the light was actually red.” It might be a few minutes (and several questions) later before your attorney reads your note and it helps for you to put the statement into context.
When you don’t react to negative testimony, and simply remain resolute in taking notes in the face of such evidence, then you can use body language to win in Court.
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Civil Litigation Division
1101 Broadway, Lubbock, Texas, 79401
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479