Preparation Essentials for Trying a Criminal Case

  • Step 1: Begin by brainstorming.
  • Step 2: To type or not to type?
  • Step 3: Don’t rush. Rushing is the enemy of the moment. Things take the time they take. In acting, rushing is the enemy of the moment. Stated otherwise, if every moment is crucially important, then none are important. Clarity is the single-most important thing that an actor owes the audience; otherwise you’ll lose the audience.
  • Step 4: Rehearse using non-lawyers as your audience. This will also help you get comfortable in hearing the sound of your own voice.
  1. The more natural and conversational you are the better.
  2. Speak from the heart.
  3. Make the jury your entire focus.
  4. You have to get up there with the intention of making contact. It’s a two-way street. Metaphorically speaking, you’re building a bridge of contact with the jury by really listening and really seeing. When there is genuine contact that comes from really listening and really seeing, whatever is going on in Person A shows up somehow in Person B. In other words, something about Person A is going to change Person B.
  5. I liken the jury to an electric current that you, as the attorney are wired to. What comes out of them comes off of you and what comes out of you comes off of them. You and the jury are constantly affecting each other. It’s as if you’re tied together at the hip.
  6. Memorize your opening and closing in a neutral way just like you memorized your “ABCs” when you were in elementary school. In other words, without any meaning. Memorize the text in a neutral yet in a relaxed way. This will allow you to be open to any influence that comes to you and avoids calculated results. Remember: Neutral and relaxed — not firm and tense.
  7. Learning the text this way deprives actors of any preconceived emotional associations, so that once the text is learned this way, the emotion will come out of what the actor is getting from his partner. The same holds true for lawyers.
  8. This requires an enormous amount of restraint because we all memorize by using an emotion to give the words some sort of significance so that we can remember them.
  9. Your opening and closing must be memorized so well that you could recite them cold if awakened out of a sound sleep.
  • Step 5: Simplicity is essential!
  • Step 6: Why do we hate to rehearse?
  • Step 7: Inspiration for rehearsing.
  • Step 8: Get permission before going for the kill.
  • Step 9: Not with a bang but with a whimper.
  • Step 10: Don’t cling to your homework and don’t cling to your choices.
  • Step 11: Always be truthful.
  • Step 12: Be Emotionally Full.

Conclusion

As we adapt the Meisner technique for the courtroom, a challenging question remains: “Good acting comes from the heart and there is no mentality in it. How can we as lawyers draw ourselves out of our heads enough to connect emotionally with our inner self, while staying alert enough to return to our head on a dime’s notice in order to respond to objections, evidentiary problems, and case strategy points?”

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Michael DeBlis

Michael DeBlis

Michael is an attorney specializing in entertainment law and a professionally-trained actor. He is a partner in the law firm of DeBlis Law.