The first impression that a trial lawyer gives the jurors in the selection process will last throughout the duration of the trial. What impression are you giving to the jurors as you stand to introduce yourself and your client to the venire? Is that impression the most helpful to your client’s case? What impression do you want to convey to the jurors? And more importantly, is that the impression jurors are receiving from you?
The feedback below was gathered from our mock jurors after the attorney conducted his voir dire at a First Court Private Jury Trial. From the comments, these jurors believed this attorney was someone they could trust. Resoundingly, the jurors found him knowledgeable, personable, and compassionate.
Do you think that the following descriptions would be said of you if we asked your last jury:
What is a word or phrase you would use to describe this attorney?
- Experienced and Kind – Melinda
- a seasoned veteran of the court – Matthew
- a long-time lawyer – Melanie
- does very well at his job – Justin
- Passionate – Austin
- folksy – Leslie
- Personable– Ira
- intellectually folksy – Vicky
- Personable and experienced. – Chuck
- personable – Kim
- compassionate – Yolanda
- Professional and compassionate. – Cheryl
- Professional and passionate about this case. – Stacey
- Seems compassionate and believes his clients deserve as much as he’s able to win for them – Scotti
- calculating, in-depth thought. – Daniel.
- competent – Jane
- thorough – Stephanie
- Thoughtful – Cianna
- Passionate – Jennifer
- Empathetic – Dana
- Knowledgeable – Wendy
All the jurors had only favorable things to say about this attorney, and that also reflected back to what the jurors thought about the case.
But what did he say? How did he say it? Why were they so impressed with some guy they just met, and how did he make such a positive impression?
The answer to these questions lies in the simple fact that jurors will follow your case if they trust you. Here are three “pro tips” we offer that this “personable” attorney used in his voir dire to get such positive feedback:
No. 1: SHOW YOU LISTEN WITH A CARING EAR
You can achieve this by asking follow-up questions that show you have been listening to the responses and want to know more about the juror as a person. Good examples are:
“Jurors, I wanted to follow up briefly on a few of the things you said … Mr. Williams, you said you moved around a lot as a child. Was your father in the military? First Court Pro Tip: Is your potential juror currently serving or retired from the MILITARY? Don’t forget to say, “THANKS FOR YOUR SERVICE.” No American military, no American court system.
“Ms. Johnson, you said you are a mother to four children. If you are selected for this jury, will childcare be a concern for you?”
“Mr. Jones, you are trained as a plumber, correct? Did you ever work with high-pressure pipes? Or superheated steam systems?”
No. 2: EASE THEIR FEARS WHILE SHOWING YOUR COMMITMENT TO THE LAW
Tell your jury: “I’ve been talking to jurors for a long time. Probably most of them … like you here today … are not sure at the start of a trial like this how to go about calculating a fair amount of money for death or pain and suffering. Can you raise your hand if you are wondering, ‘hey, how are we gonna do that?’ Actually, it’s very straightforward. You just follow the law! The judge will give you the law, called jury instructions. This lays out all the factors that you should consider to make sure your verdict is proper, that the amount you allow for money compensation is fair under the law.”
Ask, “Have any of you done this before? Have any of you seen the factors that the law lays out for the jury to consider in a wrongful death case like this one?”
“Juror Name, does that make sense to you? Instead of just plucking numbers out of thin air, a jury should follow the law? How about you, Juror Name?
No. 3: KNIT THE GROUP TOGETHER WITH THE COMMON THREAD
We want the jurors to be unanimous, united in finding a fast and large verdict or joined together in an acquittal. During voir dire, listen for opportunities to build cohesiveness within the pool of jurors. Make them happy to be on the jury and instill that sense of civic duty of being a juror. Point out common interests shared by various members of the jury, connecting common occupations or hobbies. Knit them together into one.
These are just a few of the many foundational tips for making a great first impression. Don’t waste a second of your time with the jury during voir dire to demonstrate that you are worth their trust.