By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
It wasn’t an easy decision for Nora Constance Marino to go to law school, as she always had a passion for psychology. Even after 20 years working as a trial lawyer, she still couldn’t shake her passion for it and began taking classes at Queens College.
A little more than a year later, she brought what she learned at Queens College back to the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association (BWBA), where she shared some tips on how psychology can make better attorneys during a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar in Brooklyn Heights on Thursday.
“Nora and I met at one of the dinners. We talked about being a trial attorney, which she has done for over 20 years, and she had an interest in taking psychology courses,” said Sara Gozo, president of the BWBA. “She took two courses, one in behaviorism and another in social psychology, and we got to talking about some of the things she learned and how she found it helpful to her in the practice of law.”
Marino broke the two-hour lecture into two parts — the first being a crash course on social psychology, during which she explained the processes at work. In the second half, she delved into how to apply these techniques into strategy.
“What is the study of social psychology?” Marino asked rhetorically. “It's the scientific study of how people's behaviors are influenced by real or imagined presence of other people.”
Marino went on to talk about how people react to certain situations and discussed studies in which people's reactions were controlled merely by having them memorize various words.
“We're constantly interpreting things,” she said. “How humans will behave in a given situation is not determined by the objective conditions of a situation but rather how they perceive it, what we refer to as a construal.”
She covered a host of topics, including how certain stereotypes come into play and why eyewitnesses are not as infallible as people believe. She also discussed the role that social psychology can play during jury selection and even how evidence is presented. She also spoke about how first appearances can be critical.
“Facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, the use of touch and gaze. These are all things that, as trial lawyers, we need to think about when we have witnesses on the stand,” Marino said. “It's not just your body language either, it's the way you say things and gestures.”
As an example, she spoke about a study done on court cases that looked at the order evidence was introduced at trial — story order, where evidence is entered in as it occurs in the story lawyers want the jury to believe, and witness order, or introducing evidence based on how much impact it will have. She explained that story order was much more effective in getting the outcome attorneys were looking for.
This information will go well with another upcoming CLE that the BWBA will co-sponsor with the NYS Academy of Trial Lawyers that will take place on May 17 with Vito Cannavo as the speaker — “The Anatomy of a Trial.”
But before that, on April 28, the BWBA will host the next installment of Lunch With a Judge at the United States District Court for The Eastern District of New York featuring Chief Judge Dora Irizarry. It will host a CLE on May 9 on immigration law.
The BWBA’s 99th annual dinner will take place this June 15 at the Liberty Warehouse in Red Hook. This year's honorees are Kings County Clerk Nancy Sunshine and Lisa Schreibersdorf of Brooklyn Defender Services.