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Unexpected Courtroom Events – Lessons from Speakers

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Unexpected Courtroom Events – Lessons from Speakers

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Unexpected Courtroom Events - Lessons from SpeakersWhat could go wrong in the courtroom? Being a trial lawyer draws on communication, persuasion and presentation skills. The unexpected may occur at any point in a trial. How you deal with it can cause you to retain or lose your audience’s attention.

The judge, jury, and witnesses watch everything you do in the courtroom. You are always onstage. When it is your turn to deliver an opening statement, question a witness or give your closing statement, you are especially on stage.

At the National Speakers Association Annual Conference this week in San Diego I heard some stories of unexpected nightmarish events. I’ll share some of these speaker’s nightmares with you and what I think are the implications for trial attorneys.

  • There was a sudden loss of power in the ballroom. The speaker finished his program in the dark.
  • The fire alarm went off; the speaker knew how to get everyone out of the ballroom and finished his program outside.
  • The event planner arranged for an elephant to come onto the stage. The elephant defecated and urinated and then stomped his feet, spraying everyone in the first three rows.
  • The speaker at the end of the head table moved his chair too far to the left of the riser and tipped off the riser. As he tipped over, he grabbed the table cloth, which pulled everyone’s meals off the table. The speakers behind the table instinctively moved their chairs away from the table. All of them fell off the back of the riser and disappeared from view.
  • At a farm equipment convention, the speaker was brought to the stage by a huge tractor, which took all of the attention away from him and focused it on the equipment.
  • The CEO announced to the audience of employees that he had sold the company, and most of the employees would be laid off. Then he introduced the speaker and asked the employees to pay attention to him.
  • The speaker tripped coming off the stage and fell into George W. Bush. The Secret Service agents went wild.
  • A large belligerent intoxicated man stumbled into a program and began heckling the speaker. The speaker asked for 8 volunteers who were large men. When the 8 men stood up, he asked them to surround the heckler and escort him to the lobby.

Implications for Trial Attorneys

  • Be aware of your environment. Your tension and stress level may be increased while you in the courtroom, so be particularly aware of physical hazards – boxes, cords, easels – anything you or someone else could trip over.
  • Maintain your sense of humor. Recognize there are some events you cannot control – fire alarms, loss of power, or jurors or witnesses who suddenly become sick. If you go out of the courtroom to visit a scene, be aware that you have little control over what might happen there.
  • You have to take charge and think on your feet when unexpected events occur. Witnesses may say something that can completely throw you off script. This is what makes trying a case both rewarding and stressful.

Med League is a legal nurse consulting firm that assists attorneys handling cases involving medical negligence, personal injury and other litigation with medical issues at stake. Call us for assistance.

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