Handling nerves at court

All barristers have nerves. If you don’t, you will not be working at your best. The adrenalin you generate helps you perform. Your colleagues will be nervous too.  And don’t allow yourself to think less well of yourself because you’re nervous. You will be doing the best job you can, and that is all anyone can ask of you.

  • Never drink a lot of water (or even worse, coffee) before going to court for the first time!
  • Get there early – if going by train always take the train before the one you actually need. The one you need is the one which will get you there no less than ½ hour before your hearing is scheduled to commence – more if you have a client. If driving, allow plenty of time for traffic.
  • Engage with opposing Counsel – and don’t let them intimidate you. Some barristers play games. Don’t be taken in. They’re probably bluffing. And if they have to reduce themselves to trying to intimidate a pupil or very junior barrister, then they are probably not very good!
  • Walk away. Your client, or instructing solicitor (if you’re lucky enough to have one), or your opponent may be distracting or demanding at just the time when you need to get your thoughts in order. Don’t be frightened of finding clear space for yourself to avoid being unsettled by their nervousness.
  • In court, speak slowly, and think before you open your mouth. The judge (or jury) will wait. Do not worry about pauses or delays whilst you collect your thoughts; some of the very best senior counsel do this.
  • If you have a bad day, try and put it behind you. Only one side can win in any given case. There will be times, inevitably, when you will not be on the winning side.

For further information and resources please see www.wellbeingatthebar.org.uk.

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