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Meditation proves secret weapon in courtroom

Law Bulletin columnist

Published: January 31, 2017

Picture yourself walking into court, ready to give a closing argument on what has been a lengthy and challenging trial. You know the facts inside and out — you’ve been living and breathing this case, this argument, this moment in front of you for weeks, perhaps even months.

Then as you begin speaking, the words flow smoothly — with good pace, tone and rhythm. The judge is listening intently and following everything you are saying. When you finish, you know you communicated exactly the message you intended to convey.

Meditation is one tool that can help attorneys have this type of experience.

Attorneys are intelligent, analytical creatures. Attorneys have been taught to critically evaluate legal theory, to weigh the facts that both support and hinder their client’s interests and to establish how those facts and the law interplay to achieve a client’s goals. This is heady work.

Simplifying complex facts and law into a cohesive and clear argument to the intended audience — a judge or opposing counsel — can be a great challenge. A consistent, regular meditation practice can help clear the practitioner’s thoughts and to sequence an attorney’s argument effectively and without distraction.

Attorneys also face the challenges presented by the weight of responsibility inherent in representing someone else’s interests.

Matrimonial attorneys represent and advocate for the interests of clients, where everything the client holds dear — their children, privacy, financial well-being — is at stake. This responsibility can create myriad emotions for the attorney as well as the client.

Those emotions — anxiety, fear, or anger — can distract and inhibit an attorney’s ability to communicate clearly and effectively and, potentially, prevent the attorney from obtaining the desired outcome on behalf of the client.

A meditation practice can help the practitioner sort through these emotions, stay centered and find clarity on the appropriate amount and type of emotions to convey in a given context.

A simple meditation practice could include sitting in a comfortable chair in a quiet space without interruption for five to 10 minutes. While sitting in this space, the meditator finds a focal point — most commonly the breath.

As the practitioner’s attention wanders, the breath is always there to regain focus. Initially, the meditator will be lost in thought for most or all of the time spent in meditation. But, as one continues to develop a consistent and regular practice, the meditator will return more quickly to the focal point and, over time, spend the majority of the time in meditation in a calm, relaxed state of presence without distractions.

This calm, focused and relaxed state can be an attorney’s greatest asset.

Returning to the example above, imagine stepping before the judge with your feet solidly on the ground, your posture tall and conveying the confidence you have in your client’s case, in the argument you are about to deliver.

Now, imagine pausing, noticing your breath, how it supports your posture, the strength of your body. You are centered and ready to communicate. If a distracting thought pops into your head, you can notice it and let it go without losing the thread of your argument or cohesiveness of your message.

Another common experience in meditation, when one sits quietly, is that certain emotions will arise unexpectedly — perhaps attached to a series of thoughts or maybe completely out of the blue. The meditator can observe this happen without attachment, allow the emotions to pass and return back to the focal point.

When a rush of emotions emerges to a meditating attorney in court or in a negotiation, then the attorney can use this practice, center oneself and communicate more effectively.

Of course this tool of meditation works equally as well for clients going through a legal process.

Divorcing spouses are faced with a series of legal decisions that can impact their lives for many years to come, all at a time of great emotional turmoil. A regular meditation practice can help a divorcing spouse sort through their emotions and thoughts in a safe space.

As a result, they can better identify what is truly important to them and provide clear input to their attorney. A meditating client with a clear mind can also better receive and process the information he or she receives from the attorney.

In this way, a regular and consistent meditation practice can greatly improve attorney-client communications and, in turn, help clients achieve their goals.

Patrick M. Kalscheur is an associate at Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP. He is an experienced and versatile family law attorney skilled in negotiation, litigation, and the collaborative process. He focuses on listening deeply to his client’s goals, needs and interests and empowering them with the information necessary to make decisions during a divorce so his clients can lead happier, richer post-divorce lives. He can be reached at