Public Speaking Tips for Your Next Court Appearance

Public speaking is a necessary skill for many attorneys. But alas, attorneys are only human. And like many humans, many attorneys have a fear of public speaking. Whether it’s motions court or a jury trial, attorneys have to speak in public regularly. Thorin Klosowski of Lifehacker spoke with a comedian and came up with some public speaking tips lawyers can use to ditch their stagefright.

Be Prepared

The more prepared you are for any oral presentation, the better things will go. If you’re not prepared in court, it can really make you look bad. Luckily, Klosowski points out a few tips to help you feel more prepared. Of course, knowledge of the material and an understanding of the issues is the most important way to be prepared. But Klosowski’s tips can be the icing on the cake of your substantive presentation.

Run Through the Material Out Loud

As Klosowski points out, reading your material out loud ahead of time is a great way to spot potential problems. Inconsistencies, poor grammar, and many other issues can be fixed by reading your material out loud. Sentences that look great on paper can sound awkward, so this step will also help you to find any trouble spots in your material.

Memorize the First Minute

Some lawyers I know have a canned beginning to their opening or closing that they only change very slightly to fit the case at hand. I don’t particularly like that approach, but I like the idea of memorizing the beginning of any speech. It lets the lawyer really connect with the audience if he isn’t even glancing at notes.

Calm Yourself

All the preparation in the world won’t help if you can’t get a word out. The best tip in the article is to create some kind of routine to focus your energy:

A little ritual is a great way to not only keep yourself distracted, but also to calm yourself down. Come up with something that works for you. Take a short walk around the building, do 50 push-ups, or practice your breathing. Routines are used by sports players and performers all the time for a reason: they’re a great way to clear your mind.

I think 50 push-ups is a bit intense right before a court hearing, but you can adapt the list for your own use. How do you get ready for your public speaking engagements?



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  • Well, somehow over the last 5+ years my anxiety has lessened enough that visiting the restroom isn’t necessary before every court appearance anymore (key word: “every”). That might be because I’ve found a tactic that works for me. If the oral argument presents ANY opportunity for a non-legal analogy, theme or summation, I start there. I’m still fairly green and not in court very often, so the local judges don’t know me yet. I’m confident in my writing, though, so by the time I get to oral argument (if necessary) I believe the judge has a decent level of respect for me. Then I want to relax and have “fun”. Not frivolous fun, but developing the argument with some kind of relevant hook that the judge will remember when s/he steps down from the bench to rule. Recently it was as simple as a “Muddy Waters” theme and the judge latched right on.

    Essentially, it’s a matter of integrity. I’m only willing to go to oral argument if I honestly believe in the strength of my case or weakness of the opponent’s case. Second only to that philosphy, the best way for me to relax is by establishing a comfortable demeanor with the judge or panel.

    • Guest


      That is a really good story. I remember how nervous I was before my first trial. It was a tiny little case too; but the nervousness is real.

  • deb

    You can get past any level of nervousness by practicing in advance in this way:
    Memorize as much as you have to – some of us have to memorize everything, at least at first
    Sit down, close your eyes and imagine that you are in the court room or other venue – imagine this so clearly that your palms sweat and your stomach rolls over
    Open your eyes, stand up and enter that room
    Pause, even look around briefly, breathe and then speak using a loud voice
    Practice your lines
    Do this as many times as it takes to be able to do it without stammering, choking, or otherwise wavering
    When you get to court you will feel as if you’ve done this so many times before that it’s a breeze!