We are excited to welcome back Kate Mayer Mangan! You may recall her previous post about whether personality tests are an actual indicator of career success, especially for lawyers. Today Kate shares some tips for how introverts can achieve success in litigation careers. Welcome back, Kate!
Litigation, especially in the courtroom, seems a poor fit for an introvert. Introverts usually prefer quiet, flourish with less stimulation, and are often called shy or reserved. Courtrooms, with their lambasting judges, rude opposing counsel, and judging juries would hardly seem an environment where an introvert would succeed. When we think if introverts, we think of bookish types, not dashing performers who wow juries and judges with their charisma. But armed with some knowledge about what makes introverts perform well, as well as some tricks for faking it, introverts can be calm and charismatic litigators.
The first bit of reassurance is that the judge and jury probably won’t know that you’re not a natural performer. Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in World That Can’t Stop Talking and a lawyer herself, explains that introverts can be just as skilled at public speaking as extroverts. Introverts can fake extroversion, she writes, particularly for the sake of work they love or causes they value. In some studies, observers could hardly tell the difference between real extroverts and introverts who were faking it.
Recent research by Amy Cuddy confirms that faking it affects our physiology in ways that probably enhance our performance. Cuddy has shown that adopting “power poses” for two minutes before a meeting can build courage, reduce anxiety, and inspire leadership, all assets to a great courtroom performance. She reports that adopting a power pose can increase testosterone levels by about 20% and lower the stress hormone cortisol by about 25%. For introverts who feel nervous about performing in court, using power poses before and during a hearing or trial can help.
Long before I’d heard of Susan Cain, Amy Cuddy, or knew there was a science of introversion, a grizzled trial veteran advised me to “fake it.” I am a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, and I was beyond nervous before the first motion I ever argued, which was a major motion in a $40 million trial. The veteran told me to “act like the lawyer you want to be.” I suspect he may have been an introvert himself, but regardless of his personality type, he was an extraordinarily successful trial lawyer—partner at an AmLaw 100 firm, ABOTA, Inn of Court master—you name the trial lawyer accolade, and he had it. He told me, even in his sixties, he tried to act like his trial lawyer heroes; in a word, to fake it. His advice helped me calm down enough to deliver a successful argument. When modern science and trial lawyer lore line up, there must be truth nearby. So don’t worry about how awkward or nervous you feel; just fake it.
Extra, Solitary Preparation
Of course, faking it without preparing is unwise, especially for an introvert. In fact, the key for many introverts is extra preparation—usually alone. Introverts typically don’t like to wing it, but will do well if they have time to prepare thoroughly. Cain writes that introverts often prefer to work more slowly, deliberately, and on one task at a time. This is good news for introverted litigators. You typically know far in advance when your trial call or hearing will be. You can build in extra time to prepare.
It’s worth paying attention to the process that works best for you. Do you like note cards? A detailed, neatly typed outline? Practicing on video-tape? Perhaps you think best if you write out your argument longhand instead of typing. Try a few methods and pay attention to which is most effective for you. Mastering a particular process will give you a concrete tool to turn to whenever you need to appear in court. Knowing you’ve used a tried and true procedure will give you extra confidence when you’re forced out of your comfort zone.
One particularly helpful tool is to visualize yourself making brilliant arguments in the very courtroom where you’ll be appearing. This is something Olympic athletes do, and it works. Michael Phelps played the “video tape” of his race every night for years, so often that the “video” became the reality and practically second nature. You can do this, too. Play a “video” of yourself delivering an incredible examination (like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men) or an amazing oral argument (like any John Roberts or Paul Clement Supreme Court argument). You will start to know what it feels like to perform brilliantly.
Charge Up Before, Recharge After
One of the quintessential traits of introverts is that their energy is sapped when they spend too much time out of character. Cain advises the creation of “restorative niches,” places in your daily life where you can go to return to your true self. You may want to charge your batteries before your appearance. That likely means spending time alone, gathering your thoughts, rehearsing, planning, and relaxing. Introverted litigators are not likely to want to “talk through” their arguments over an early morning cup of coffee. A pre-hearing team meeting is more likely to rattle you than to pump you up. If you’re an introvert, protect your solitary prep time.
After the big event, you’ll very likely need to recharge—alone. Don’t head straight for the post-game debriefing. Take a walk around the block or excuse yourself to catch up on email or phone calls. If you need to head back to court for another session or move straight into another intense task, make sure you carve out time to recharge. Introverted speakers have been known to steal away to bathroom stalls or their hotel rooms, just to catch a few minutes of quiet. This is wise, and if you do it, your career and performance will benefit.
Take heart, introverted litigators. With the right systems in place to respect your personality, you, too, can deliver winning performances in court.
Thanks, Kate! Great article.
Kate Mayer Mangan is a coach and consultant at Donocle, a company that helps lawyers work at their highest potential. Before founding Donocle, she had a successful career as a lawyer, practicing as a partner, associate, and professor. Her work has appeared in the Huffington Post, LA Daily Journal, and Ms. JD. Learn more at www.Donocle.com.
— – —
Want more great career tips? And check out these helpful posts:
- Getting an Offer: Being a Professional in a Generation Gap Workplace
- Help! The Partner Think I’m an Idiot
- I Told the Truth and It Turned Out Fine
- Lawyers Can’t Find Their Bliss… Can They?
Want law school tips? Sign up for our free mailing list today.
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.