So begins jury consultant Patricia Steele of Varinsky Associates in her article "To Deal Better With Juries, Stop Thinking Like A Lawyer!" She should know about lawyers' mistaken assumptions, she explains, because she was a lawyer. "[A]fter hundreds of hours debriefing actual jurors and watching mock juries deliberate," she says, "I now know that a great deal of [lawyers'] accepted wisdom about jury psychology is completely baseless."
I think she's right, but judge for yourself. Start in any of these places:
- "Lawyers are skilled at many things,but understanding and connecting to jurors is generally not one of them. This shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider that most lawyers actually have no frame of reference. In the first place, they rarely see juries in action. The vast majority of civil cases settle before trial, and few litigators ever serve on juries or watch mock jurors deliberate. In addition, lawyers typically have little in common, either socially or economically, with the average juror."
- "For generations lawyers have told each other that the jury’s opinion of the lawyer is important to their decision in the case. Trial lawyers think that what they wear and how charming they are influences jurors. They think they can dazzle juries with their eloquence. This is a huge misconception."
- "Another area that’s rife with legal folklore is jury selection. Many lawyers judge prospective jurors using outmoded stereotypes, reflecting an overly simplistic view."
- "A good voir dire is designed to elicit information that helps you to see the jurors as individuals. This sounds obvious, but many lawyers don’t seem to get it. Instead, they use this valuable opportunity to try and educate or condition jurors. This is largely a waste of time."
Don't argue with any of this until you hear her explain why.
Note: Patricia's article was first published in Defense Comment, the publication of the Association of Defense Counsel of Northern California and Nevada, and it is made available here by their kind permission and hers.
(Photo by Michael Glasgow at http://flickr.com/photos/glasgows/85752623/; license details there.)