I had the sincere honor of representing a client at a jury trial several years ago. He died recently. I was thinking about him and his case. I helped him win a small collection suit when a company he did work for refused to pay him. The jury was so aggravated they asked the judge two questions: Could they give him more than I had asked for? Could they make the Defendant pay his attorneys fees?
At trial, my client was true to his own self. I was embarrassed when he walked in to the courtroom on the first day of his jury trial. He was almost laughable because he had looked so out of place. I had to let him sit next to me at the counsel table! He had on a cracker straw hat, his red hair hung below the brim of his hat and covered his ears, he was wall-eyed, wore cowboy boots and a lime green shirt. He said it was the best he had – and I believed him.
He had a big red handle bar mustache and he stood not more than 5’ 4”. He was suing ‘cause the defendant made him re-stripe a shopping center parking lot. (The inspector said it only had 480 parking spaces, but it needed to have 490. So, in the middle of the night my client grinded down 480 parking stripes and re-striped them just a little bit narrower so there would be enough to get approval from the inspector in 48 hours. It was all the contractor’s fault.)
His authenticity had quite an effect on the Jury. On the witness stand he was short and to the point — very honest, never squirmed around, he looked straight at them and never dodged a question. He was simple, and he was open and he was in the right. He was not trying to impress anyone and the Jury KNEW it.
The lesson I learned was the importance of authenticity. I would rather represent him than some stuffy client decked out in a dark suit any day. I try to explain this stuff to my clients but they have a hard time with it.
Jurors are so good at smelling rats. Whenever you get a client like mine, let them be themselves on the witness stand. Be proud of them. They have nothing to be afraid of. The Jury will respect them (and their attorney) and enjoy the trial and reward them with a fair verdict. What more can you ask for?