I was told during my review that I tend to freeze and tense up whenever I get asked a question I don’t know the answer to. Also that sometimes I rush to a conclusion without fully thinking the answer through. Is anyone else experiencing similar issues? Any advice will be greatly appreciated. 🙏🏻

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Yes! I remind myself constantly that silence feels longer to me than the people listening (we tell witnesses the same thing when prepping for depos). Stop, take several deep breaths, and think about the question. If someone prompts you for the answer, say, “I’m considering your question.” If you genuinely don’t know, say, “I’m not sure, but I’ll look into that and get back to you.” If you think you do have an answer, say, “I believe the answer is [X] based on [Y].”

Also, practice being comfortable with the fact you sometimes freeze up and don’t be afraid to acknowledge that you weren’t prepared for a question. Occasionally, I even freeze up during meet and confer calls when opposing counsel catches me off guard. It happened this afternoon, and after a moment, I just laughed and said, “I wasn’t expecting you to ask that, give me a second to think about this.”

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Absolutely not alone.
I’ve found that no one blinks an eye when I say “Let me think about that for a minute” or tell them I need to consider further, review documents, etc. and get back to them.

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Common. Demonstrate that you’re actively listening with “hmm” and “ok.”

It’s good to develop some time stall phrases (watch political debates, the first 10 seconds of what comes out of their mouth is pure stall).

I also like to repeat and rephrase the question, just like a witness on the stand. It not only helps me get more time to think it also ensures I correctly understood the facts they gave me. Look at resources for coaching witnesses to give testimony, there’s some cross-over

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Thank you!

I’m someone who neeeeeeds to think out loud to process certain things (to the point where I write most briefs by dictating because it feels like my ideas don’t exist until I’m verbalizing them). To avoid sounding like a crazy person, I’ve mastered the art of the follow up question to let myself think out loud in a conversational way:

Problem solving - “So the problem is X? Has someone looked into the reason/trigger/cause behind X yet? Are we looking for a short term solution or to prevent this from happening again?”
Research / case law - “Is there a particular court or circuit we’re most interested in? What context is this issue coming up in?”
Fact about client/litigation - “Are you looking for the answer to this question on X generally or do you need to know whether we’ve made a specific representation about X in our discovery responses or the pleadings?”

The key is to make it sound like the person who asked you a question hasn’t yet given you all of the relevant info (and often, you’ll realize they haven’t). It gives you a minute to think and helps you more fully understand what’s actually needed instead of just what was originally asked.

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Wow this is great advice. Thank you so much!

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