Photo by David Bares on

Reading a prepared written statement is often the least effective way to address the court.

Yet at almost every court session someone–a victim, a retraining order applicant, a pro se defendant, etc.–will stand before the judge, unfold a sheet of paper, and begin to read (word-for-word) a written argument that they prepared in advance.

Often the people who prepare such statements appear competent and even well educated. And you can understand why they believe this is the best approach. “If I write everything out beforehand, it will be persuasive and I won’t forget any of the important points that I need to make.”

There’s also, I think, a bit of comfort in simply reading a statement that you prepared. It eliminates at least some of the stress associated with public speaking.

However, something (an emotional element?) is lost when this method is used. I can’t think of a single instance when the judge or anyone else in the courtroom appeared truly touched or moved while someone simply read a narrative to them.

If you are going to speak at court, it’s best to do so in a natural, conversational way. I realize that this is easier said than done. But the more scripted you seem, the less persuasive you’ll be.

And you’ll soon come to realize this if you spend any amount of time watching what goes on during court proceedings.