Persuasive Techniques That Smart Lawyers Use in Court

Being a good lawyer requires a wide range of skills from having a comprehensive knowledge of the law, to being able to speak and perform well in front of an audience. They need to come up with a great strategy that weaves together the most useful facts and relevant laws and they need to be great at working with people and easing the concerns of a range of different clients.

Ultimately though, the main goal of any criminal lawyer is to persuade – to persuade the judge as well as the jury that their client is innocent. This means using the facts well, but it also means using subtle psychological techniques that can help to win over their audience – much the same as marketers and pickup artists might. Here are a few of the most powerful persuasive tools that lawyers can use.

Repetition

The human brain responds well to repetition as it sounds confident and confirms something we’ve already heard as true. In one study it was found that waiters who repeated the orders they took to their customers would on average receive a 10% better tip. Lawyers can use this effect by repeating key points in their case, or by repeating what their witnesses and clients say in order to give it more authority.

Bodylanguage

When we communicate, the vocabulary we use is really on part of the story and unconsciously we will be paying a huge amount of attention to more subtle body language cues. This includes a range of little signs that can make someone seem more truthful – for instance when someone nods their head as they talk. If a lawyer wants to make their case more convincing then, simply using a subtle nod of the head as they emphasise could help to do just that.

Asking Questions

Aristotle was a great philosopher and the mentor of Plato. He had several ideas that helped him to achieve his historical status, but one of the most popular is the ‘Aristotle technique’ which basically means using questions to avoid directly answering awkward questions. For instance then, if someone says ‘where were you at 3pm?’, answering using the Aristotle technique could mean saying ‘why does it matter?’ or ‘what are you implying?’. Of course when used in defence this needs to be done subtly as it can otherwise be spotted by astute lawyers and prosecutors.

Leading Questions and Assumptions

Likewise savvy lawyers can also use leading questions and assumptions to stack the decks in their favour. A classic study in psychology involves showing participants a video of a car crash and then asking them to estimate how fast the other car was going in two conditions. In the first condition the experimenter will ask ‘how fast was the red car going when it bumped into the blue car?’ while in the second they ask ‘how fast was the red car going when it smashed into the blue car?’. Surprise, surprise the participants in the second group would estimate the speed as being significantly higher than those in the first group.