This may seem like a really obvious maxim, but I just saw it violated in the worst way. I was summoned for jury service and sitting in the voir dire panel in court when the judge asked the lawyers to introduce themselves and their clients. What did the plaintiff’s lawyer do? He made great eye contact and introduced himself to the jury in a confident voice and then . . . looked at his notes to read the name of his client. What’s even worse, he had trouble reading his own writing and stumbled when he tried to pronounce his client’s name. I’m not even sure he ever got it right because he did not say the name very clearly or loudly. All the jurors in my panel noticed the lawyer’s mistake.

Talk about a case being over before it ever began. Unfortunately, this lawyer’s mistake is more common than you would expect. I have seen it happen several times in a courtroom. During a trial, I’ve seen prosecutors forget the first or last name of a victim or pronounce incorrectly the name of a key investigator. This failing not only shows a lack of preparation but also a lack of passion for your case.

In my trial, the mistakes did not end there and only confirmed our initial impression about this lawyer. The plaintiff’s damages in this car wreck case were mostly bills from a chiropractor. One of the panel members asked the plaintiff’s lawyer if he thought chiropractors provided a legitimate service. Instead of immediately saying yes—since his whole case was built on that—he hesitated, then after a pause and a false start, he said that it depends. Some doctors respect chiropractors and some don’t. Again, the panel members saw a lawyer who did not believe in his case.

You would never make these mistakes but the larger point is that your first impression with a jury is very important and that jurors can sense which lawyer believes in his case and is the most prepared.