Heather Hansen

Trial Day 17 – Challenge With Questions

I don’t win my cases with arguments. In any given trial, the opportunities to argue are few, and they often happen outside the presence of the jury. Most of the arguments get us nowhere closer to a win. The way we actually win cases is by asking questions.

Questions are magic. They’re your superpower. You can use questions to gain trust, to gain perspective, and to gain dates. But you can also use questions to win. Lawyers do this all the time. We ask witnesses questions, and hope that the answers will prove our case to the jury. When we’re questioning our witnesses, those questions are softballs, ready to be hit out of the park. When we question adverse witnesses, on the other hand, those questions are bombs, meant to destroy on contact. You might want to find a happy medium.

But rest assured, you can challenge with questions. I do it on cross exam all the time. I challenge an expert’s opinions with questions. I challenge a witness’ recollection with questions. And I challenge a jury’s preconceived notions about the case with questions. Lawyer learn this early. In law school, many of our professors use the Socratic method. That means that they teach us by asking questions. Often these questions are aggressive, probing and even punishing. Many law students live in dread of being called on in class. In our classes we had microphones, and when someone in our row was chosen for the hot seat the person next to them would slide the microphone over in relieved sympathy. We learned a lot of things in those classes, but most of all we learned the power of questions. Today you get to use that power. TODAY’S CHALLENGE-TRY TO CHALLENGE WITH QUESTIONS.

You could use questions to challenge someone you are arguing with, and you could use questions to challenge yourself and your inner critic. You can challenge anything with a few good questions. How will you use this magic? What questions will you ask to challenge yourself, your loved ones or your colleagues? Share your questions, and maybe even challenge one another with some questions in the forum. I can’t wait to see what you ask.

Heather Hansen

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