Tag Archives: posture

Basic Motor Skills, Courtroom Edition

Time again for …

Kaitlyn’s Mock Trial Tip of the Day

Let’s talk about posture and courtroom presence today, okay? Okay. As a lawyer or witness, you want the judges to be impressed with your poise and grace the minute you enter the room. Or at least with your personality. You want them to find you realistic yet elegant without ever having to open your mouth. There are several ways to accomplish this task, and thus, you should do all of them.

1. Stand straight

You should never slouch, hunch, lean, or do anything else that might compress your spine. A straight back indicates to the judges that you are conscious of the seriousness of the case, and you wish to be taken seriously. Don’t ask me why straight spine = courtroom maturity, but it apparently does. This also applies to witnesses and sitting attorneys; sit straight up, but not quite to the point where you look like you are about to leap up at any moment and dash off. Just enough to look poised. Unless your character is a hunchback. Then slouching is acceptable. Some other exceptions apply, like if you are trying to seem sleazy, lazy, or immature. Really, you don’t want to seem like any of those. So these exceptions are next to worthless.

2. Be aware of your hands

Your hands are in the way in mock trial, except when you are gesturing. As a opening or closing attorney, you should gesture a lot. Get across the big picture with big arm circles, indicate the victim with a sympathetic backhanded point, slam your fist on your palm when talking about “you cannot let this injustice stand!!!”. Gestures are integral to a good opening or closing. And, ideally, they will be scripted, so you won’t have to think about what looks good on the spot. If you aren’t gesturing though, your arms should be clasped in front of you, about belly button level. Too high, you like you’re praying. Too low, and you’re protecting yourself for a penalty kick at the World Cup. At your sides, and you are a robot. Really, only slightly above the waist is acceptable. When you are sitting, you should keep your hands either occupied with taking notes, or with clasping your fingers together. Don’t fidget though. As a witness on the stand, you should make moderate gestures when appropriate (also scripted), and otherwise keep your hands on your lap. “Don’t fidget” also applies to you.

3. Eye Contact

Eye contact is extremely important in making your team seem realistic and confident. We won’t use notes (no exceptions!) so there won’t be an issue with having to look at notes, up to people’s faces, then burying yourself in notes again. However, you have to be confident enough to make eye contact with every judge, at least, and with every witness that you cross or direct examine. This makes you seem human, at least, and at most, like you know for certain that your version of events is unequivocally accurate. The latter is much more preferable. As a witness, eye contact can sometimes be counter intuitive. You always want to be making eye contact with the judge when you answer a question, but you must look at the current examining lawyer when they are asking the question. The judges will emphasize with your character more, and the lawyers will feel like they are paid attention to. Which is good, because it’s never a good idea to anger your cross examining attorney.

4. Volume and Voice

So, obviously, mock trial is mostly about *what* you say, but the way you say it can also be very influential. If you aren’t loud enough, for example, that beautiful “gotcha” question will be lost in the room. Both lawyers and witnesses need to talk as if they were communicating across a small gymnasium with a friend. Not yelling, certainly not screaming, but talking louder than you would in an intimate setting, just because the sound can get swallowed up, by air conditioning, chairs shuffling, or even just a heavy breather in the audience. Always make sure that you can be heard. Lawyers and witnesses can help each other out as well. If you notice your counterpart talking a little too softly for comfort, just ask politely if they could be a bit louder. It’s like a secret code, except you are saying EXACTLY what you mean to say. How exciting, yeah? The way you talk can also indicate your personality (a confident business woman talks swiftly without hesitation, a teenager throws in “like” or “you know…” a lot, etc.). Make sure you witnesses choose a speaking style that is true to your character. Drug addicts don’t form consistently coherent erudite sentences, just as professor’s don’t talk about wild parties (well…at least not in mock trial). With an accent, you can make your character have more depth (not to mention win the hearts of all foreign loving members of the gender of your preference), but only if you can pull it off consistently. Don’t switch accents in the middle of a character.Just…don’t.

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