Law Tips: A Professional’s Advice on Clarity, Compassion and Confidence in the Courtroom

“A trial is a highly prepared, precise operation. A good attorney must engage a jury of ordinary people with complex data and ideas. Like a great work of theatre, all the elements must come together to create a cohesive and vivid picture in the minds of the jurors. But unlike a play, a trial may put real lives, reputations, and fortunes at stake. It is critical that impressions are managed and stories are clear.”

I welcome David Mann, The Professional Education Group, Minneapolis, MN, as our latest Law Tips faculty participant. His comments above are a part of his ICLEF seminar, Advanced Skills of Storytelling and Persuasion for Litigators.” Mr. Mann engages attendees in the key concepts of persuasive delivery and storytelling for lawyers based on techniques drawn from the performing arts. I’ll tell you more about both David and how you can take advantage of his CLE program later in this article. Now, let’s bring the curtain up on his presentation of the keys to clarity, compassion and confidence in the courtroom. David begins by re-examining the central idea of any trial lawyer’s preparation:

Persuasion is about how they’ll hear, not what you’ll say. Though this sounds incredibly simple, it’s actually quite counter-intuitive. We tend to prepare what we say as though we’ll be speaking to ourselves – or someone who thinks like us. But that is rarely the case. In order to be persuasive it is critical to orient your words and ideas to the listener, based on whatever knowledge about them you’re able to gather or perceive.


  • Logical
  • Responds to data
  • Problem-focused
  • Collects pertinent information,analyzes the information, reaches a logical, sound conclusion based on the evidence


  • Emotional
  • Responds to images
  • People-focused
  • Uses general knowledge ofhow life works, constructs a story, uses data to justify their emotional conclusion

There is a gap between these two very different thinking styles, and bridging that gap should be the primary focus of a lawyer’s communication preparation for trial. Understanding and navigating the dynamic between the logical, data-driven lawyer and the emotional, image-driven jury is key to persuasion. With this in mind, it becomes clear that the story of the case and each individual story within it must be clear, human, and engaging in order to be persuasive.

A jury sits in an unfamiliar environment (the courtroom), absorbing a tremendous amount of unfamiliar material (the case), and is asked to make a fair judgment of right or wrong. If a lawyer doesn’t take this into consideration, it becomes easy to inadvertently talk over their heads and not engage them. It’s critical that an attorney makes every effort to resonate with a jury as a credible authority whom they can trust to speak their language and guide them through this unfamiliar landscape. Managing your presentation to communicate humanness (trust and likability) as well as authority (knowledge and confidence) will be perceived by the jury as credibility long before any facts emerge.

The Myth of Natural

Though the importance of delivery is undisputed, it’s common for lawyers to spend much less time practicing it than they do preparing the rest of the case. The prevailing idea- as it is for salespeople, teachers, politicians, etc.- is that all you need to do is simply “be yourself” at the moment of truth. But that’s when things go wrong, because it becomes painfully clear that there is no such thingas a “natural” delivery under such artificial circumstances. Actors know very well how much work goes into appearing to be natural and relaxed, on cue, every time. The same truth is key to every lawyer’s success. Learning how to manage your face, body, gestures, and vocal inflections is a skill unto itself. There’s nothing natural about it at all. But with practice, a lawyer can develop a courtroom persona that “reads” as natural to juries, witnesses, and judges, and projects the authenticity they want to convey.

Perception of Meaning

Human beings perceive much more about a speaker’s intention from non-verbal cues than from the words themselves. It always important to consider this, especially when constructing openings and summations. The human face has tens of thousands of subtle combinations of eye, mouth, and brow movements that are all associated with certain intentions. Likewise, the human voice has a virtually limitless capacity for expression using combinations of tone, pace, and volume. And tiny shifts of the shoulders, arms, legs, and hands can communicate enormous amounts of meaning to a jury. Ideally this unspoken 93% is consistent with your spoken message. But pay attention. Sometimes it can dramatically undercut what you’re saying and elicit an unwanted response.

The word “subtext” is not a word that is often used outside the art of theatre. The concept, however, is present in every act of human communication. It’s the idea that there is an entirely separate message being conveyed that exists “under” the words. For lawyers, there are specific subtext messages that are desirable and others that are not. A good lawyer acts as a conduit between the case and the jury, giving a human face to the otherwise complex and static trial data. Much of this is of course is done with words, but always remember to navigate the subtext as its own communication layer, filled with persuasive possibility.

The Three Cs

For persuasive power with ordinary people – the jury – three principles must be present: Clarity, Compassion and Confidence. Without clarity, nothing else can happen; without compassion (humanness), it’s just a recitation of facts. Only once those two factors are established does it become important to project your knowledge and authority.

It’s intermission time in David Mann’s discussion of integral persuasion skills for litigators. Return to Law Tips next week when he takes you into the specifics of rhetorical delivery…. “Although it is unnecessary for a lawyer to have the vocal and physical dexterity of an actor, there are many areas where a lawyer’s persuasive power will increase by managing the two tools of rhetorical delivery: voice and body.”

There is an opportunity for you to earn CLE credits through Mr. Mann’s ICLEF training.  Enroll for our On Demand online presentation of the Advanced Skills of Storytelling and Persuasion for Litigators seminar through our website by Clicking Here.


About our Law Tips faculty participant:
David Mann is a speaker, trainer, and professional actor/director. He has a specialized focus on persuasive presentation for lawyers, and he is on the faculty of NITA (National Institute for Trial Advocacy) and Loyola School of Law.  A professional theater artist for over two decades, David has performed or directed for many recognized theatre companies.  He has written and performed five critically acclaimed one-man shows, and he is a recipient of a Bush Artist Fellowship for Storytelling.  David is a graduate of Northwestern University, and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.  If you have questions for David or would like to inquire about his coaching, contact him at For speaking engagements go to the Professional Education Group at

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook and Twitter pages, and other places her legal experience lends itself.

Thank you for reading Law Tips. You may subscribe to this weekly blog through the RSS link at the top of this page.  Also, you are encouraged to comment below or email Nancy. She welcomes your input as she continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our CLE faculty to share with you.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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I.P. Blog: NFL Negative Publicity Affects Value

By Jill StarbuckPellegrino & Associates

Football is inarguably the most anticipated sport in the United States. Boasting more revenue than any other national league in the United States, the NFL generates approximately $9.5 billion annually.[1] However, this year, the league faces considerable negative publicity. Headlines announce lawsuits from cheerleaders suing for low wages, double standard punishment for NFL personnel, an immense increase in concussions, and the Redskins name debate. Also, headlines shout greed over the NFL’s proposal to charge Super Bowl halftime entertainers to perform. Add to the mix lackluster game attendance and a continuous rise in ticket prices, the NFL seems to be struggling. Or is it?

The NFL dodges issues every year. While this year seems to be abundant with various negative issues, the league masters its ability to rectify issues—quickly and smartly. For instance, the league announced new penalties regarding sex violations and domestic abuse in response to public outcry regarding Ray Rice’s initial light punishment. In addressing the concussion issue, the league funded a think-tank for handling concussions in sports around the world. These are just a few examples of how the NFL responds to negative publicity.

The NFL also faced public backlash over its suggestion to charge halftime entertainers at the Super Bowl. Typically, the NFL does not charge Super Bowl halftime entertainers. Nor does it pay them. However, despite the public backlash, the NFL may have a good business point. If advertisers are willing to pay millions for mere seconds on a commercial, why wouldn’t entertainers pay for exposure for a much longer period? On the other hand, approached entertainers such as Katy Perry, Coldplay, and Rihanna do not necessarily need the exposure. They are worth more than $100 million each and their concerts typically sell out. However, other singers/bands who seek more exposure may find it worth the cost, as the halftime show draws tens of millions of viewers.

Another area of so-called greed comes with the live game experience. Fans who want the live experience pay a hefty price, with the average cost of attending a game at nearly $460.00.[2] While the NFL could stand a boost in attendance, attendance remains steady over the last few years. Therefore, although prices have increased, the effect on attendance has been minimal. In the hopes of spiking attendance, the NFL is making efforts to enhance fans’ stadium experience by offering Wi-Fi and cellular standards, fantasy-friendly amenities, gourmet food, more space, and other perks. However, realizing that the cost factor, advanced technology, and comfort keep many fans at home, the league continues to find ways to capitalize on its at-home viewers. Currently, the NFL has network contracts totaling $5 billion annually through 2022.[3]

Negative publicity is never a good thing. However, with a large number of personnel in the public view, negative hype is bound to happen. Yet, the fact remains that the NFL continues to dominate the U.S. sports industry. The league’s ability to tackle negative publicity with solutions helps keep its value stable.




ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Bill Cosby’s Value Demise

By Jill StarbuckPellegrino & Associates

More than fifty years ago, one of the most famous comedians of our time was just beginning his career. Bill Cosby’s career began in the early 60s with stand-up comedy and a starring role in I Spy, a drama television series. But his real claim to fame began in the 1980s with the widely popular television series The Cosby Show, which was based on material from his stand-up comedy acts. The show aired for eight seasons and received a host of achievements including Emmy awards, Golden Globe awards, NCAA Image awards, a Peabody award, and People’s Choice awards. Decades later, the sitcom continues to air and DVD releases for the seasons still sell today. Along with the stand-up comedy acts and the highly successful sitcom, Cosby has appeared in various films and other sitcoms. He has hosted a game show and a kids’ show. Today, he continues to perform stand-up comedy and has many projects in the works.

Cosby’s career and personal life portray him as a nice, fun, approachable, and loving man. He keeps his comedy material clean so that a family could be comfortable attending his show. In real life, he is a family man with several children and has been married about as long as the span of his career. In addition to his acting and comedy career, Cosby is an advocate for education, creating his own cartoon series with Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids and Little Bill, serving on various educational boards, and delivering speaking engagements. His fight for education and morals further make him “America’s Dad.”

As America’s Dad, the recent rape allegations from as many as 20 women come as a huge shock to the public. While Cosby has yet to be indicted, and may never be, the sheer confusion and shock of these allegations creates a negative perception in the eyes of the public. As a celebrity, what the public perceives is what counts the most when it comes to value. Whether guilty or not, the damage has been done. It is unlikely that Cosby will be able to fully recover from this. While the public often forgives celebrities who suffer from addiction, when it comes to sexual offenses, the public is less forgiving. Take for instance Michael Jackson and Penn State’s Joe Paterno where allegations followed them to their deaths. It is likely that Cosby will face the same demise.

Whether Cosby is guilty or not, the public is too confused and hurt to let it go. Both doubters and believers exist, but the image portrayed by Cosby for over fifty years versus the sexual abuse allegations (by many women) he now faces is just too much to comprehend. Further, many other factors in play right now are not helping the situation. For instance, it doesn’t help that Cosby publicly admitted to an affair in the past. Nor does it help that the media implies that the Cosby team is investigating each accuser in the hopes of digging up dirt to make them unreliable resources. In addition, Cosby’s silence makes him appear guilty to some people. Also, the fact that educational institutions dropped him immediately, scheduled shows have been cancelled, and other projects have been put on hold indicate that he is guilty or at the very least that his image has been tainted.

Currently, Cosby’s net worth is $400 million.[1]However, it is likely that his net worth may fall or become stagnant at this point. More than likely it will fall because the demand for his presence will be far lower than he has ever experienced, and he will have to pay lawyers and public relations experts to fight all of the accusations in court or otherwise. While a celebrity’s value naturally starts to fall because of death, ill health, or other problems that face aging celebrities, Cosby’s is likely falling based on accusations and public perception. Unfortunately, at his age, he may not have time to overcome the negativity to stop his value from falling.


ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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Steven H. Ancel Annual Bankruptcy Institute

ICLEF Renames Flag Ship Seminar Steven H. Ancel Annual Bankruptcy Institute™

Steven H. Ancel

On August 14, 2014 ICLEF and the bankruptcy bar lost a friend, a mentor and colleague with the passing of Steve Ancel. He will be greatly missed.

Steve served as a member of the ICLEF board of directors from 1987-1993 and our treasurer from 1990-1993.

He served as chair of the Sigmund J Beck Advanced Bankruptcy Roundtable from 1990-2006 and chaired the Annual Bankruptcy Institute™, an Institute that Steve was instrumental in developing, from 1980 to 2006 – a period of 26 years.

Whenever ICLEF called upon Steve for assistance, he was there; Steve never turned us down and he was always someone that we could count on when we needed help.

Within just a few weeks of Steve’s passing, ICLEF was approached by several members of the bankruptcy bar asking if there was a way that we could honor Steve and his commitment to the education of Indiana lawyers.

With discussion and permission from Steve’s family, ICLEF is proud and honored to announce that the Annual Bankruptcy Institute™ will be known from this day forward as….

Steven H. Ancel Annual Bankruptcy Institute


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