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Puddleglum

Tips for soft spoken person

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I am a fairly soft spoken person who is working to project better confidence in the courtroom. Any tips? If there are any soft spoken litigators here, have you found it gets easier? My articling is primarily in criminal law, and I hope to continue in this area when I finish.

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trick that worked for me:

listen to a lot of radio/audio only youtube shows where the host is a complete aggressive angry insensitive d*ck (don't watch TV or video shows where you get distracted by the images, only listen to the ones where it is just sound of people talking)

but make sure it is someone you find funny, or agree with, so you can keep listening to it

listen to it everyday (at least 1 hour a day) for about 12 months

the style will start to rub off on you

Edited by law4sho

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Visualize your voice coming from the pit of your stomach, not from your mouth. There is a lot more power in it than you think. 

Make eye contact with the judge. When you read from your notes your voice drops. You should be doing this anyway to ensure Her Honour is keeping up (wait for her pen to stop moving before you go on).

It is also a good idea to give a quick summary at the outset. That way the judge has your framework and if you do trail off the court can still refer to your initial outline and “has” your argument in its essentials. 

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11 hours ago, Puddleglum said:

I am a fairly soft spoken person who is working to project better confidence in the courtroom. Any tips? If there are any soft spoken litigators here, have you found it gets easier? My articling is primarily in criminal law, and I hope to continue in this area when I finish.

Okay, so unlike the poster below you, it's not like you need to completely change your personality or speaking style.  You don't need to come across as loud and abrasive.  Speaking with a calm confidence can be just as effective, if not more so.

Really I don't know if there are any tricks.  It just comes from experience.  You're articling, so this is all very new.  I know my first few experiences in articling were kind of a hot mess.

I suppose Toastmasters could be some use.  I gave it a try a few times, but at that point I had been in practice for a few years and didn't find it terribly helpful, but if you're really struggling with public speaking it is an easy, low pressure way to get experience.

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I'm pretty soft-spoken. You definitely have to work on speaking more loudly and projecting a bit more than you're used to, but you don't need to become that person with the booming voice or anything. Just focus on who you're speaking to (usually the judge arbitrator and/or a witness) and make sure they can hear and understand you clearly. Litigation is (mostly) not a show - it's a conversation. How well you do is not reflective of how good a show you put on, but how well you know the facts and the documents, and how well you explain them.

For me, the key to feeling and acting confidently was always to know my case inside and out.

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Volume is easy to fix.  Speed is the bigger issue a lot of newbies have.  Look the judge in the eyes, and slow down. 

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I found this video helpful for finding my natural tone (it is geared towards men but would work for both sexes I think). I am also fairly soft spoken but I can comfortably be heard if I am not raising or lowering the pitch of my voice artificially, as we sometimes have the tendency to do when we try to be heard. 

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On 9/5/2019 at 8:52 PM, guwapoest said:

I found this video helpful for finding my natural tone (it is geared towards men but would work for both sexes I think). I am also fairly soft spoken but I can comfortably be heard if I am not raising or lowering the pitch of my voice artificially, as we sometimes have the tendency to do when we try to be heard. 

Haha this is rather fabulous thanks. I do run into "vocal fry" with nerves so definitely trying to keep a natural tone (when I can remember).

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Make sure you also hydrate as needed.  That's what the water near the podium is for.  I definitely get cotton mouth easily since I'm not used to projecting my voice in social or work settings.

I also agree that knowing the case inside and out helps with confidence/courage.  Imagine being the judge or master thinking "Who is this person?  What's this about?  Why are they here?  What do they want?  Why should they get it?"  Refine your submissions until you discover their simplest form.

I found it easier to be confident when I framed my submissions as an explanation for how things are rather than how they should be or what I want.  I'm just the messenger here to explain that given these facts + the law, this is the outcome. 

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1 hour ago, Another Hutz said:

Make sure you also hydrate as needed.  That's what the water near the podium is for.  I definitely get cotton mouth easily since I'm not used to projecting my voice in social or work settings.

This is quite critical!

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On 9/10/2019 at 6:06 PM, Another Hutz said:

Make sure you also hydrate as needed.  That's what the water near the podium is for.  I definitely get cotton mouth easily since I'm not used to projecting my voice in social or work settings.

This is something I should try to actually use, so far I have been irrationally certain I will spill water on everything

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I think Jaggers’ first post is the key thing - the secret to speaking confidently is to know your stuff backwards and forwards. Judges (and any other sophisticated consumer of legal services)  are never impressed by rhetorical flourishes but they are routinely impressed when lawyers know the facts, the law and the record well. It doesn’t matter if opposing counsel is louder or more polished than you as long as you know the file better. 

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On 9/13/2019 at 10:59 PM, Puddleglum said:

This is something I should try to actually use, so far I have been irrationally certain I will spill water on everything

You will spill at some point, it happens to everyone. Just clean it up and move on from it. You can minimize the damage by being strategic about where you leave the cup during your submissions.

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Soft spoken newbie litigator here.

Take advantage of the mic. It helps a lot.

When you speak, keep in mind that you're not just saying things for sake of the judge or justice of the peace. You want to make sure that the court reporter captures everything you are saying. With this in mind and who knows when someone will order the transcript for what reason, it'll pressure you into speaking clearly.

Emphasize certain words when you speak or pause when you are raising an important issue. It makes things more interesting, as opposed to just being robotic. i.e. "Person A doesn't recycle, Person A doesn't yield when required to do so, and most importantly...Person A regularly cuts in line at burger king. CLEARLY, Person A is a jerk."

Be friendly to clerks and court reporters. Be friendly to fellow counsels in court. Before you know it, you'll feel comfortable just being there. It helps you loosen up. 

In terms of submissions, I felt most confident when I knew my facts and law. I'd also prepare a written submissions upfront. The fact that I already have the submissions in mind via writing made the oral submissions easier. 

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*** just going to make the point that in every courtroom I have ever been in, the mic only records - it does not amplify. 

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I would recommend reading “The Introverted Lawyer” by Heidi K. Brown. She makes the distinction between introversion, shyness, and social anxiety, and offers advice on how to deal with each category. I’m not a lawyer, but I found it to be immensely helpful in everyday settings. 

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