<img height="1" width="1" alt="" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1482979731924517&amp;ev=PixelInitialized">

How to Apply Cialdini's 6 Principles of Persuasion in the Courtroom

Alex Brown
By: Alex Brown

Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Demonstrative Evidence, Juries, Storytelling, Persuasion

by Alex Brown
Director of Operations
A2L Consulting

Last year, we talked about the pros and cons of business development professionals -- specifically, the good and bad traits of people in this profession. Here, I start a new series on the six principles of persuasion. I have long been a huge fan of Dr. Robert Cialdini and find myself repeatedly going back to a book he wrote called "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion." In this book, he discusses the six principles of persuasion. I want to share with you these principles in a six-article series, starting with principle number one: Reciprocation.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, reciprocation is a noun that refers to a mutual exchange, a return in kind or of like value. Now before the emails come in about the ethics of giving the jury something in exchange for a favorable verdict, hear me out.
The idea of reciprocity is to give something to get something in return. So a litigator must put himself or herself into the shoes of each juror. What can you legally give them that has a perceived value above what they expected? To do this, you have to know what the jurors are expecting from the trial -- and most of that is negative. They feel that they are being taken away from work, family, personal time. They feel the pressure of making a decision that will help or hurt someone or something (a company), and they expect to be bored to death with statistics, witnesses, and the legal side of the case.
One of the things that the jurors do hope for is to be interested in the case or entertained -- but in truth, they expect just the opposite. When you are putting together your case, you should take to heart the immortal words from Gladiator: Are you not entertained!
  1. Entertain the audience. Regardless of the seriousness of the case, levity can defuse the pressure that the jury is feeling. There are levels of levity; choose the appropriate level for the case. A term related to this is the CSI effect. Jurors expect to see amazing displays of evidence, just as good as what they see on the hit TV show. Give them what they expect. Use professionals to develop slide decks, use professionals to videotape and digitize depositions, use professionals to prep the witnesses. If you don’t, the audience will notice, and your credibility will be harmed. 
  1. Connect with the audience. Engage them mentally and if possible personally.This concept needs to be infused into the strategy and the theme of your case from the start and repeated throughout the whole trial. Give them a reason to be engaged.
  1. Respect the audience. Make them feel welcome and make them think positively about you and your client. You can do this by creating easy-to-understand points, easy to-follow demonstratives and exhibits, and easy-to-believe witnesses. 

Remember, the audience members are not lawyers. The old adage that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink applies to juries. Make it easy for them to come to a conclusion in your favor.
If you think about what you can give to the jury that they can appreciate, you will not only Increase the odds that they will listen to your argument, but you will create an easier path for them to understand and agree with your argument.

Other articles and resources related to persuading a jury, entertaining a jury and connecting with a jury from A2L Consulting:

mock jury webinar a2l kuslansky

Leave a Comment