If you’ve suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence and are pursuing a personal injury claim, you may eventually find yourself in a court of law for a trial. For many, this will be a new experience, therefore, it’s important to understand that there are certain formalities that you are expected to follow when you’re in a courtroom. Additionally, there are some things that you can do to help you shine throughout your day in court. Following these five tips will help to ensure that your time in a courtroom goes smoothly.
First, your attire sets an important tone. If you underdress you are sending a message that you do not respect the court process. If you overdress you run the risk of appearing to be trying too hard to impress the judge or jury. My recommendation is that you think of the court as a business casual environment. Dressing appropriately will give the impression that you respect the court but yet are not trying too hard to impress.
Next, there is the expectation that parties will show respect to the judge and the jury. I recommend always standing when a judge or jury enters a room, as well as when they exit. It’s also important to not speak at that time. Once the judge and jury are seated, it’s okay to sit as well.
During a trial, you will hear testimonies from witnesses, some may annoy or upset you. Conversely, some of the testimonies may make you feel happy. The jury is watching everything you do. Your reaction can either help or hurt your case, the best practice is to try and limit your reactions. Imagine if you had a volume button, you’d want it to be on low while listening to testimonies. Of course, you’re expected to react to negative testimonies, but overdoing it will turn off the jury. A slight frown is much more appealing to a jury than profusely shaking your head in anger. The same goes for positive emotions, a slight smile is much more appealing than acting as though your favorite football team just scored a touchdown.
At some point, you may have to testify in court. To do this you will be asked questions by an attorney. In direct testimony, your attorney will ask you questions, this process is usually friendly, and in cross-examination, your opposition’s attorney will ask you some questions. In both instances, you should always wait until the attorney finishes speaking before answering the question. It is never received well by a jury if you talk over an attorney. Also, it’s a good idea to try and relax and take your time answering the questions.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to speak directly to the jury when answering a question. So, you should look at the attorney while he/she is speaking and once he/she is finished and you are ready to answer, turn and speak directly to the jury. Jurors will react positively to direct eye contact, it shows a level of confidence in what you are saying and will improve your credibility with jurors.