Dr. Noelle Nelson

How Your Emotions Can Help You Win Your Case

The question of whether to trust our logic or trust our emotions is rarely brought up in the context of legal matters, at least not from the lawyer’s point of view. Certainly, we discuss endlessly how this or that prospective juror’s mindset (highly emotional versus highly rational) might impact our case, but not usually how the lawyer’s emotion would.

However, research by M. Pham, L. Lee and A. Stephen provides interesting insights into the positive impact lawyer emotions might have in winning cases.

Their study showed that people who were more likely to trust their feelings were also more likely to accurately predict the outcome of a particular event. The researchers call this phenomenon the “emotional oracle effect.”

How does this apply to winning your case? Tune in to your emotions. If, when preparing a witness, you sense that something is “off,” don’t dismiss that because your logic tells you all is well. Trust your emotions enough to say something like “I notice that . . .” or “I’m wondering if. . .” which is a non-threatening way to probe further and take a look at whether or not what you sense with this witness has some basis in reality.

The more you practice listening to the guidance of your emotions, the more you will be able to discern which to trust.

Similarly, you can review the demographics of your prospective jurors all you want and weed out the obvious “bad apples,” but when it comes down to that moment in voir dire when you’re between “keep Juror A versus Juror B,” tune in to your emotions. Listen inside yourself for that intuitive hit and go with it.

Your mind is bigger than your analytic prowess. Use all of it, rational and emotive, in the service of your success.

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