Untangling Fear in Lawyering
A Four-Step Journey Toward Powerful Advocacy
About Heidi K. Brown
Having suffered from extreme public speaking anxiety throughout law school and law practice, Heidi’s passion lies in researching, studying, and writing about introversion, shyness, social anxiety, and extreme public speaking anxiety in the legal context—and helping quiet law students and lawyers amplify their authentic advocacy voices. Based on her research, she was appointed to serve as a Board Member on the Association of American Law Schools' Committee on Balance in Legal Education.
She also won the Global Legal Skills Award at the Global Legal Skills Conference at the Collegio di Giurisprudenza at the Università degli Studi di Verona, in Verona, Italy in 2014, for “excellence in the advancement of global legal skills education around the world.”
Heidi is leading a Task Force on Law Student and Lawyer Well-Being at Brooklyn Law School.
Heidi is the author of four other books on federal litigation and legal writing. She resides in Brooklyn, New York and when she is not teaching or writing, she loves working out at SoulCycle, boxing, studying Italian, and accumulating stamps in her passport.
To help quiet law students and lawyers become authentically powerful advocates in both deed and word, the second half of this book outlines a practical seven-step process to help introverted, shy, and socially anxious individuals amplify their voices without compromising or suppressing their quiet strengths.
Step 1—Mental Reflection:
We begin listening carefully to, and then transcribing verbatim, the negative messages that automatically launch and replay in our heads in anticipation of, or during, a law-related interpersonal interaction. We put the messages on paper. All of them. Word-for-word. Then, we try to identify their original sources. We start to realize and acknowledge that the sources and messages from the past are no longer relevant in our law-related lives today.
Step 2—Physical Reflection:
We start noticing each physical reaction triggered by the anticipation of, or participation in, an interactive law-related event. We describe the physical manifestations as specifically as possible—on paper. Do we blush? Sweat? Experience shortness of breath? Tremble? Develop a stomachache? A migraine? We assess how and when each physical response begins, crescendos, and eventually subsides. We note our default physical protective stances: Hunched shoulders? Crossed legs or arms? Averted gaze? Are we making ourselves small or closing inward, trying to go unnoticed or unseen?
Step 3—Mental Action:
We begin ejecting the unhelpful messages from the past and crafting useful taglines and prompts for the future. We delete the old censorious messages and write motivating new ones.
Step 4—Physical Action:
We adopt new physical stances, postures, and movement techniques to better manage and channel excess energy ignited by a law-related interpersonal exchange. An open, well-aligned, physical comportment helps increase blood and oxygen flow, enhance thought clarity, and amplify the natural power in our voices.
Step 5—Action Agenda:
We construct a reasonable and practical “exposure” agenda, brainstorming a series of realistic law-based interpersonal interactions and ranking them from least stressful to most anxiety-producing. Through this thoughtfully structured chronology, and with careful planning and mindful intent, we experiment with modified mental and physical approaches to each agenda event, with the goal of capitalizing on quiet strengths and amplifying our authentic voices.
Step 6—Pre-Game and Game-Day Action:
We develop personalized mental and physical pre-game and game-day routines for each law-related exposure agenda item. Then, we step into each exposure event, consciously integrating the new mental messages and physical adjustments adopted in earlier steps.
Step 7—Post-Action Reflection, and Paying It Forward:
We reflect on and acknowledge successes and challenges within each exposure event. We tweak the pre-game and game-day routines for each subsequent exposure agenda item. We continue visualizing our ideal authentic lawyer personas. What does that quiet lawyer look like? How does he/she act, speak, think, write, analyze, communicate, participate, help, listen, or create? We note our impactful moments as a quiet yet magnanimous, altruistic, and empathetic advocates. We share our stories and empower others.
Blogs & Articles
by Heidi K. Brown
• Are you a lawyer with public speaking anxiety? You are not alone (March 2019)
• How introverted lawyers can harness their traits for success (January 2019)
• Stanford Law School WellnessCast Podcast (May 2017)
• Championing the Introverted Lawyer (Spring 2017)
• Introverted Lawyers Listen (December 2016)
• Equipoise (see pg 14) (December 2016)
• Harnessing the Skills of the Introverted Lawyer, New York Law Journal (August 2016) [*subscription required]
• The Best Oral Arguments Aren’t Perfect, They’re Real (February 2016)
• Empowering Law Students to Overcome Extreme Public Speaking Anxiety: Why “Just Be It” Works and “Just Do It” Doesn’t, 53 Duquesne Law Review 182 (Winter 2015)
• The “Silent But Gifted” Law Student: Transforming Anxious Public Speakers into Well-Rounded Advocates, 18 Leg. Writing 291 (2012)