Your Life is Not a Jury Trial

It’s more like a deposition – one where you are the witness, have a trusted advisor at your side and the opposing counsel asks probing questions to reveal your knowledge and experience.

Let me explain.

In a trial, you rarely want to ask a question you don’t know the answer to. This is true whether you are questioning your client or the other side. Big witness-stand breakthroughs make compelling television, but they are pretty risky in a real courtroom.

(True story: I know a lawyer that — during the trial — asked his own client to explain why he was absent from his business for a couple of years. The client responded he’d been in jail for assault. He lost.)

If you were on the witness stand in front of the jury, you would be subject to tough questioning by the opposing side and your attorney would be on the other side of the room with limited ability to help. Opposing counsel would be asking tough questions and actively trying to discredit you or get you to make a mistake. Watching all of this action is a jury who is evaluating your credibility and ultimately decides whether you win or lose.

Sometimes all of this happens in our heads. We take on the role of opposing counsel and point out all of the problems and mistakes we’ve made. We’re also the jury and judge ourselves harshly. The rationale and positive side of ourselves don’t do much to help.

Do Your Discovery and Avoid Trial

One of the first steps upon taking a case is to conduct discovery. This is your chance to find out the facts and circumstances and to really understand why your client is where they are. Both sides get to ask a lot of questions, you have time to think about your answers and your attorney can help you respond. It’s perfectly fine and even encouraged to ask questions you don’t know the answer to. Of course, it’s still an adversarial process and you need to be careful, but overall there’s a sense of curiosity.

The great thing about curiosity is that it doesn’t allow space for judgment. There is no jury watching you and evaluating your actions. You can take the time for thoughtful action. In a personal sense, practicing this kind of open exploration keeps us growing and developing. We can push the judgmental voices to the side and focus on making the best decisions with the information we find. There are no wrong answers and no failures, only learning.

Are you on trial in your mind? Or are you in discovery? If you’re ready to let go of the negative, judgmental and critical voices in your head, let me be your trusted advisor as you ask the right questions to discover what success means to you.


Katherine Porter. J.D.
Katherine Porter. J.D.
Katherine is a speaker, writer, consultant, and coach with 20+ years of experience as a practicing attorney and business consultant. Leaving her corporate life behind, Katherine now leverages her knowledge and insights to advocate for human-centered workplaces. She believes that the systems and structures of most companies today focus too much on short-term profitability at the expense of attracting and retaining diverse talent. With her business partner and fellow design-thinker, Katherine is leading workshops for companies that see the value in a diverse and inclusive culture. Katherine is also an executive coach, primarily focused on helping women design a life that fits their unique strengths, talents, and priorities. Katherine’s coaching and consulting is grounded in three main disciplines: design thinking, positive psychology, and mindfulness. She writes about women in the workplace, workplace culture, and what she calls “work-life peace.” Katherine holds a B.A., cum laude from Connecticut College, a J.D. from UCLA School of Law, and is a certified life coach. She recently completed a professional Certificate in Design Thinking from the University of California, Riverside. She’s a proud introvert, an avid reader, and a dedicated lifelong learner.

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  1. The judgments we usually make every day are influenced by the mistakes of decisions made in the past, by prejudices, emotions and mental blocks that make us more likely to make mistakes.
    The important thing is to be prepared, to have the right tools to decide and, above all, to practice whenever a decision has to be made, no matter how insignificant it may seem.
    In summary it could be said that the most frequent mistake is to focus on the result. Better keep the path in mind.