The old adages roll off the tongue when someone says the word “practice,” don’t they?
“Practice makes perfect”
“Practice makes the master”
“Practice is everything”
“Perfect practice makes perfect”
- or one of my favorites -
“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”
Whether you hear these in the voice of a parent, the Karate Kid mentor, Mr. Miyagi’s voice, Yoda’s, or Morgan Freeman’s, these words resonate. Yet many highly regarded litigators resist practicing their trial presentations.
Take a look at what a proven winner, Coach Pete Carroll, has to say about practice theory:
Jeff Stott, an expert consultant to business and sales professionals, confirms the importance Carroll puts on carefully planned practice and confirms how reluctant most non-athlete professionals are to engage in the activity:
We don’t know why they resist it exactly, but it may have something to do with not wanting to be seen as less than perfect. While this is a valid emotion, succumbing to it does an injustice to your case, your client, and yourself.
For the real best of the best professionals, including trial lawyers, practice is not only common, it is usually public. These people create a culture in which presentations are not expected to be perfect at the outset, and everyone is better for the experience. Accustoming yourself to this mindset, much less creating such a culture, is not easy. But you can make it happen.
Take some tips from Victoria Labalme, a communications consultant to Fortune 100 executives:
Victoria makes some terrific points in her six-minute video:
- First, you must practice to be any good
- Practice on the clock
- Practice with an audience
- Watch yourself practice
- Video (and audio) record your practice
- Practice as you’ll play – wear the clothes you’ll wear, rehearse as you’ll do the presentation, imagine yourself in the “arena” you’ll be playing in
Finally, Marsha Hunter advises attorneys in NITA on the best ways to practice presentations, speeches, and opening statements. Here’s an excerpt of a 2012 NITA talk she gave to a group of litigators:
We strongly believe in continuous self-improvement. It’s best for us and the people around us, and it is certainly best for our clients. With that in mind, here are three ways in which you can build practice into your trial preparation routine:
1) Use a mock jury (trial). We offer a variety of mock jury formats that range from the full multiday event involving 50 to hundreds of mock jurors to single-panel focus groups or mock jurors. Either way, you get access to a Ph.D. jury consultant, a formal report, and a review session. If you can afford it and have the time, this is the way to both practice your case and get the maximum feedback.
2) If a full mock jury session is not in your budget, you don’t have the time, or it’s too early in your case to do it, use a Micro-Mock™ session. The Micro-Mock™ is A2L’s proprietary service. There are a variety of options, but at a minimum you get access to our expert litigation consulting team and tremendous feedback on your case. This is the ultimate in balancing budget and results. No other service is as effective at forcing you to practice your case and get the formal feedback you need to improve.
3) On your own, practice, practice, practice your opening statement or oral argument. Do it yourself at home, in the car, in your firm’s conference room, in your partner’s office, and do it over and over again. Enlist your peers as well as non-attorneys as your audience. Get their feedback. Listen to yourself talk out loud and try different ways of getting your points across.
It’s best to use all three of these suggestions. Progress from very informal practice to very formal practice and back again. Put these things on your calendar now and be a better litigator for it when it counts.
Here are some other articles related to practicing your trial presentation: