Humor In The Courtroom

At the end of every year, we here at Mitchell Hoffman & Wolf often reflect on what we have learned and how we can continue to improve our practice to better serve our clients and their loved ones.

During our discussions about what worked well in this most difficult and serious year, we came across the article “Lawyers Should Be Less Serious Sometimes,” which discusses how using humor can help attorneys form better connections with judges, juries and their clients. “Judges are regular people like the rest of us, and their eyes can gloss over at a bland argument just like anyone else’s. As a result, using colorful language, relatable examples, and maybe a few jokes usually doesn’t hurt in oral advocacy,” writes the author, attorney Jordan Rothman.

As trial attorneys who represent people of different backgrounds and interact with a wide range of jurors from Cook County, we know that lighthearted humor can sometimes be just the thing to bring people from all walks of life together. Going to court can be a stressful experience for clients and lawyers alike and acknowledging the tension with a good-natured aside or joke can make the whole experience a little more bearable. Breaking through dense legal writing or oral arguments with some personality can also help to win over judges.

In a recent LinkedIn post, we asked our fellow attorneys what they thought. Could they have a bigger impact in court and relate more to their clients if they were “less serious”?

Many agreed that showing themselves as fully “real” people makes them more relatable to clients and helps defuse stressful situations. Of course, using humor while presenting a case is no guarantee that an attorney will win a favorable outcome. And lawyers should be careful not to cross the line. One more cautious respondent to our post worried that too much humor in court could backfire, giving a client the impression that their attorney is not taking their case seriously.

Our clients know that we take their cases very seriously, and because of that, we look for ways to connect on a human level with juries, judges and opposing counsel. Using some well-timed humor can be an important part of that. If this year has taught us anything, it is that sometimes all you can do is laugh.

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!