November 17, 2015 Articles

Leveraging Likeability: How to Present Your Client in Litigation

By Bridget Donegan

Of course we all want juries to relate to our clients. A relatable, likeable client is more believable, and the jury more naturally sympathizes with his or her position. We also know that a particularly likeable or sympathetic opponent poses a threat to our case. But unless client likeability presents a glaring obstacle from the outset, it too often plays into our case strategy only much later—during deposition preparation, or after mediation fails and a jury trial seems a realistic possibility. We too often allow the facts of a case to frame how our client’s likeability is perceived, even as we hope the jury will see a client in the broader context of his or her life, finding familiarity and seeing pieces of themselves. Of course our clients are at their most likeable not as litigants, but as neighbors, parents, nurses, or gardeners, who happen to be caught up in difficult situations. We know this, and we expect to present our clients—including businesses—to the jury in this light. But we do our clients a disservice when we wait until trial to leverage their likeability.

Building cases from day one around our clients as people, rather than as mere litigants, allows us to present persuasive, coherent themes throughout the depositions and negotiations that lead up to trial. When the client feels comfortable with his or her case, it makes his or her trial testimony that much more believable and consistent.

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