Project Confidence Without Being Obnoxious

Clients are drawn to confident attorneys. Confidence in the courtroom may add an edge to your level of persuasion. But confidence is a slippery slope; make sure your self-confidence never approaches arrogance.

When talking with clients, if you find yourself rambling on about how you won this case or that case, and how this case is a slam dunk, you may have crossed the line. Clients want to believe in their counsel, but an overconfident attorney is hard to relate to. Excessive puffery can alienate clients and make you seem out of touch with client goals.

In the courtroom, arrogance is deadly. Dismissing a question from a judge as irrelevant may torpedo your case. Every argument has a weakness, and dismissing a weakness can undermine the strongest of arguments. To a degree, this is audience dependent. But credibility with the judiciary is your most important asset. Admitting faults can enhance your credibility and does not equate to a lack of confidence in your case.

Keep a level head. If you find yourself thinking you are coming across as overconfident, you probably are.

(photo: Igor Bespamyatnov)


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  • Very Wise words. Short sweet and potent. Alhough we do not have a jury system in South Africa, the advise is still very relevant to the relationship with clients, the presiding officer and even the opposing party.

  • Peter,

    I agree with the theme you’ve expressed. Confidence rides a fine line between arrogance and anxiety. When you feel good about what you know, who you are and what’s going on around you, you project ease. When you don’t feel good about what’s going on around you, you can still feel good about who you are and what you know. Number one thing to do in those cases is Ask Good Questions. It forces you to shift from your emotional brain to your thinking brain and gives you the appearance of calm and focus.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Doug Stern

    I was fortunate to meet a lot of interesting people at Big Spring Country Club back in my caddying days. Many were the larger-than-life kind of men you’d expect a teenage boy to admire.

    And then there was Mrs. Gaines Wilson, Jr.

    Louise Wilson was a legendary golfer in these parts. She owned the Kentucky amateur championship in the Fifties, winning five times, and captured her sixth title in 1985…just to prove she wasn’t all washed up. In 1961, she reached the semi-finals of the U.S. Amateur Championship.

    In addition to having an amazing swing, Mrs. Wilson was kind and humble. Genuinely nice to be around.

    She taught me that I could be strong and quiet. That less really can be more.

    Some corporations get this. For example, I know of a couple law firms that demonstrate Louise Wilson’s quiet excellence.

    Check out Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Townsend and Townsend and Crew to see what I mean. They’re what I want to look like when I grow up. Quiet. Confident. The Best.