The Case for Your Courtroom Voice

The Case for Your Courtroom Voice

Gentlemen, this one’s for you. If you are prone to lower your voice in the courtroom to raise your presence, you’ve got it all wrong. The surprising results of a linguistic study on whether the vocal characteristics of male lawyers affect trial outcomes show that “masculine-sounding lawyers are less likely to win in court.” It’s their more gentle-sounding peers who are more likely to be successful.

According to NewScientist, while cultivating a booming voice for the generally “adversarial, macho environment of the courtroom” might seem like a positive, this is not the case.

A University of Chicago linguist, Alan Yu, and a legal theorist of ETH Zurich in Switzerland, Daniel Chen, led the study, which entailed collecting 60 recordings of male lawyers in the U.S. Supreme Court making the traditional opening statement: “Mister Chief Justice, may it please the court.” Hundreds of volunteers then rated the clips for masculinity, attractiveness, confidence, intelligence, trustworthiness and education.

“After accounting for the age and experience of the lawyers, statistical analysis showed that only one of the traits could predict the court outcome. Lawyers rated as speaking with less-masculine voices were more likely to win.”

According to the article, Yu would like to investigate whether a lawyer’s manner of speech is affected by the perceived likelihood of winning. Per the linguist:

“Lawyers who think they’re going to lose may project a different kind of voice, perhaps overcompensating by sounding more masculine.”

Want to voice your opinion on these findings? We welcome hearing from you.

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