The Legal Advocate

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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Best Advocacy Fix: Cross is About Jurors

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This post is written by guest blogger and NITA faculty member Hugh Selby.

That cross you’ve just done, it’s the best I’ve watched and heard from you.  Your questions were mostly closed, only open when you clearly had weighed up the possible costs against the benefits, nice and short and easy to understand, and well paced.  You gave us all the time to reflect too – that’s so often forgotten by ‘gladiator-like’ cross-examiners who want to rush at the target and mistake the quantity of questions for the quality.  That pause between the witness’ answer and your next question—well done.  Those are all aspects of good cross that everyone here can admire and copy.

But here’s the ‘but’ – and this is the reason that you’re in this room, to learn the ‘but’ and how to fix it.  In that last performance we were all your jurors, we were your key audience, but… you never considered our needs and our wants.  Your performance was for you and the witness.   It was personal; it was singular when it should have been for us.  We, not the witness, are the targets of your persuasion.

The fix, now that you’ve mastered the simple technique methods, is to bring us—the decision makers—into your cross-indoctrination. To do that, ask the questions with a mix of body language and tone that shows your concern for gaining our respect, keeping our interest, and achieving our acceptance of your message.  So look at us sometimes, share the topics of your cross with us and the witness so we know the journey on which you’re taking us, keep using those pauses to allow us to reflect, and direct our minds to be aligned with your case theory. That way, when you make your closing argument we’ll already be persuaded.

OK. Let’s have another performance. Let’s all aim during our questioning to build and keep a rapport with our decision makers.


Hugh has been a faculty member for NITA at multiple Building Trial Skills programs, including the National program in at which he taught. We would like to thank Hugh for writing this post and sharing his knowledge, and we would like to invite you to comment below with any questions or thoughts.

NITA’s team of practicing lawyers, professors and judges from around the nation dedicates its efforts to the training and development of skilled and ethical legal advocates to improve the adversarial justice system. NITA's Goals are to:
  • Promote justice through effective and ethical advocacy.
  • Train and mentor lawyers to be competent and ethical advocates in pursuit of justice.
  • Develop and teach trial advocacy skills to support and promote the effective and fair administration of justice.
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