I’m almost a second year attorney in family law. I have made brief appearances in hearings, but nothing really major. I am an outgoing person and have no problem working out issues and speaking to the partner and senior associates. However, I have so much anxiety about court, particularly long arguments. I am extremely nervous and feel like I’m going to freeze. I do believe I’m capable, but I feel like I have a long way to go. Any tips? I’m doing great in all other areas more or less.

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I’m a third year. I always found outlining my arguments/trial plans helped me relax and take everything into context. I wouldn’t use my notes fully when presenting but it’s okay to have them with you as a security blanket.

When presenting take a deep breathe and go slow. Nerves demonstrate you care, which is a good thing, but you can’t let it take over. Slow deep breathes can help you control it. If you control the anxiety, you’re in a better position.

Lastly, the nervousness of failure isn’t something that will go away completely. But know you’re practicing law, and each experience makes you better for the next time out.

likesmart

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” - AGB

One way to boost confidence is to adequately prepare and if necessary, over-prepare. After you have had a couple experiences where you realize no one in the room is as knowledgeable about the facts and applicable law as you are, you may be surprised at the subsequent change in your confidence level.

Keep at it!

likesmart

Have you tried mooting arguments within your firm? It’s time consuming, but I think more firms should do this with young associates.

As was mentioned above, breath control can help with anxiety (holding your breath will almost always exacerbate it) and is worth researching.

For really intractable performance anxiety that doesn’t abate with experience, there are psychologists who can help (sports/performance psychology is a thing). In extreme cases, I’ve read of stage performers taking beta blockers to stem anxiety. These are fairly extreme measures; I mention them not to suggest you need them but that they’re available.

likesmart

I botched the first couple hearings I was in. I just did a trial and killed it. Hang it there. I think time and practice is the cure all for most.

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I was a nervous wreck before my first hearing and it turned out to be all for nothing. Every hearing after that has been much easier. Just overprepare and try to recognize that it's mostly in your head.

Also try to remember that no one's perfect. I am constantly amazed at how poorly many partners with 20+ years of experience often come off in court. Of course, they won't admit that, but the transcript doesn't lie.

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Original poster here. Another thought that needs to go away is that because I feel like this, I’m not cut out for it. It seems like it should be exciting to be in court but it terrifies me!

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It's true litigation isn't for everyone, however, personally it just took time for me to get comfortable and I still get anxious when it's somthing i am less confident will win the day. Also, not everyone is what I call a "trial junkie." Those are attorneys that LOVE to argue in-person rather than through briefing only and get a rush from doing it. That isnt me, but I do love litigation and accept the oral argument portion (and learned to over prepare to calm my nerves).

It doesn’t always go exactly as planned, but my best hearings, arguments, and trials have always been when I “over-prepared”. When there are a lot of issues I’m not sure there is such a thing as being too prepared. If you are worried about forgetting points or remembering what to say next, key up exhibits, testimony, and demonstratives to use as a crutch for each main points. After you get a couple Whiffs and a couple homeruns under your belt, you will have more confidence and know that you belong.

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Learn meditation self hypnosis or other relaxation techniques. After 35 years I still get anxious before court I sit close my eyes and concentrate on relaxing my body before court. It helps

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Hi, Your post Resonates with me. I would strongly suggest that you look for in-house opportunities. For me, working on house has given me the opportunity to be the lead lawyer on many complex and interesting projects.

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Seen many an attorney hit a snag and get that “deer in the headlights” look in court. It does happen, and even though I sense the slaughter I’m about to lay upon them, I do sympathize for them. Not the kind of thing you can force if it isn’t in your wheelhouse. It gets ugly and embarrassing... for everyone in the room, really.

I was the same way. I always over prepare, but the public speaking has given me the confidence needed. I jump at every opportunity to speak for my department and firm and it’s really helped me come out of my shell in court.

If you can sit in on hearings, that might be helpful. In law school, the public speaking classes/moot hearings were hard for me. After law school, I clerked for a judge for two years and my perspective greatly changed, which helped with my fear.

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