I think I’ve always been determined as much as confident. Growing up, like many kids, I was insecure about my looks and not being popular. I felt more comfortable with adults, including my teachers, than with kids my own age. I learned early on that if I worked hard I could be smart.
I believe my confidence comes from preparation and working harder than the next person. Practice, practice, practice… and hard work. That’s how you’ll boost your success.
When I was in law school, I took trial advocacy classes whenever I could. After the mock trial, my professor told me I was a natural. That was the boost I needed to give me the confidence to pursue this route.
My first tobacco case was a huge undertaking – David versus Goliath. My client, a single woman, wanted to sue the largest tobacco company in the world for not disclosing that cigarettes cause lung cancer. Of course, we are all aware of the dangers of smoking today. But back then this was a radical idea. My law partners thought I was nuts and didn’t support what I was doing. But the senior partner allowed me to run with it, as long as I could do it on a shoe-string budget.
I believed it was the right thing to do, and wearing the “white hat” gave me the courage to pursue this seemingly unwinnable case.
Having a competitive nature also helped to propel me forward. Someone had to take on the bullies and even if I didn’t win for my client, I was going to try my hardest.
I often think about the level of trust my client had in me during that time. She couldn’t have been more different than me, but we clicked on some fundamental level. We were both totally committed and we each kept the other going. It was more about the fight than the win, although of course we both wanted to win.
I’m always nervous at the start of every trial. Every day is a new adventure. And talking with the jurors on Voir Dire (jury selection) is very unnerving.
My opening statement was planned out. I had to influence the jury’s perceptions of the industry and the defendant. “This is a case about a pack of lies” was the opening line as I held up a package of Marlboro cigarettes. I wasn’t as sophisticated back then about how to dress, or stand, or act. The information I was giving the jury, to me, was what was most important.
Now I coach other trial lawyers on how to prepare. One of the most important things that I coach them about is projecting confidence. If you don’t believe what you are telling a jury, why should they? If you sound tentative or apologetic, the jury has no confidence in what you are conveying. So, I work with them on influence, how to speak with authority and authenticity. Keep it real and keep it honest. The jury’s trust must be earned.
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