People often talk about “courtroom battles,” and as a lawyer myself, I can tell you that there’s a lot of truth to this phrase. Over the past decade, with over 10,000 hours of courtroom experience, I’ve found a direct correlation between trial law—especially criminal defense work—and actual physical combat. I know this because in addition to practicing law, I’m also a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Julius Park with world-class competition credentials. My partner here at Shapiro Zwanetz & Lake, Jason A. Shapiro, was a golden glove boxer, and so both of us understand the many complex aspects of combat sports. So, how are courtroom battles and fights on the mats or in the ring connected? It all starts with basic human biology.
All forms of adversarial interaction, on the biological level, reflect our genetic desire to either run or fight when there is a perceived threat. Plus, humans are innately violent animals—our rate of lethal violence is seven times higher than the average mammal. This is because our primate ancestors were exceptionally fierce creatures. Those genetic dispositions were what kept us alive when we had to face the realities of the pre-civilized world.
Today, most of us no longer need to worry about physical confrontation. Many people go their whole lives without ever getting into a fight with another person. But the genetic aggression and fight-or-flight response that persist in our DNA still affect our lives in many ways. And nowhere are those predispositions more obviously on display than inside a courtroom during a trial.
In a courtroom setting, you are likely to encounter many moments which trigger a fight or flight response. Each case begins with two opposing sides—the state and the defense—presenting two diametrically and often ideologically opposed sets of facts. From that moment on, every interaction is in some way combative—whether it’s just a phone call, plea negotiations, or even just walking into the courtroom and getting acquainted with the parties involved. Every action is done while supporting one side of the issue to which both parties are deeply committed. Humans deeply committed to facts with diametrically opposed ideologies communicating with one another is, on a molecular level, combat. And any kind of combat triggers the fight or flight response, aggression, and worst of all: fear.
For a lawyer unprepared for this kind of adversity, such instances of conflict are likely to trigger the flight response. This sense of fear can allow doubt to creep into a legal argument, and can lead to an abandonment of the facts of the case. Before long, the flight response can result in the entire case becoming derailed—particularly if the fear occurs early in the process. Needless to say, this can also dramatically effect verdicts, leaving the lawyer’s client with a less than ideal result.
This scenario sits in stark contrast to what happens when a confrontational courtroom moment triggers the fight response in an attorney. A lawyer who is more comfortable with conflict, such as one who participates in combat sports, will instinctively pounce into action against the problem at hand. A person that does combat sports regularly experiences confrontation on a physical and mental level. If they have competed, they have tested themselves against other people physically at full force. For trained fighters, the phone calls, meet-ups, and negotiations are all done from a place of stability—and they don’t suffer from biological weakness clouding their judgment. As opposed to the flight response, the fight response will lead an attorney to argue their case more clearly, stick to the facts at hand, and do a better job of convincing the judge or jury to trust their version of events. This, in turn, will lead to better likely trial outcomes.
I believe it’s essential to keep these ideas in mind when looking for legal representation. Not only do you need an intelligent, well-prepared lawyer—which admittedly should not be difficult to find—but you need someone who trains their mind to respond properly and effectively to people’s innate desire to perceive adversity as combat. If the courtroom is a battlefield, then you always want to have a champion on your side. If you would like the SZL team to fight on your behalf, give us a call at (410) 927-5137 to set up an initial consultation.