Stealing the Courtroom Show: Should You Sign Up for Theater Classes?
Melvin Belli, the legendary 'King of Torts' and sometimes Hollywood actor, was known for his courtroom theatrics.
Belli appeared in television and movies during his storied career, and took some of his acting skills into the courtroom. Representing a woman in a personal injury case, he literally dropped her prosthetic leg in a juror's lap for dramatic effect.
"Ladies and gentleman of the jury, this is what my pretty young client will wear for the rest of her life," he said. "Take it!"
No one is saying you need to drop a limb in the courtroom, but you might consider breaking a leg. Acting could win your case.
Acting for Lawyers
Every trial should have some drama; if not, it will put your audience to sleep. Kathleen Havener, writing for the American Bar Association, said the best trial lawyers know this.
"When you talk to the jury, look at the jurors," she wrote. "Like an actor in live theater, pay attention to how the audience is receiving you, and adjust your delivery accordingly."
Trial lawyers should never read their arguments to jurors. Rehearse them until you know your lines by heart, she said.
Good lawyers, like good actors, connect emotionally with their audience. This includes judges, especially when you want to move them to your point of view.
All the World's a Stage
Acting skills can help lawyers outside the courtroom, too.
"Learning basic acting skills can help in depositions, or in any other position where you have to talk to others," Mark Wilson wrote for FindLaw. "Improvisation is also helpful, as it trains you to be able to think quickly."
Acting is like public speaking, but with action. In addition to memorizing lines, actors learn how to move. They call it blocking, which is knowing where to stand on a stage for maximum effect.
Of course, when approaching jurors you want to be careful not to drop anything in their laps -- unless you script it that way.
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