JURY SELECTION 101: THE OPENING

Do you want to seem like an expert at picking juries…even if it’s your first time in court? Below are 3 quick tips to coming across like a seasoned professional.

I recently reported for jury duty, despite knowing with my time as a prosecutor, later as a defense attorney and teaching lawyers online nationally about jury selection, the chances of me being selected were slim to none. On this occasion, I didn’t even get asked any questions, but I did have two days to watch the process. I saw a few things that could have been improved. Actually, many things.
In this article, I’m going to only focus on the beginning of questioning, and provide a few quick tips for attorneys who have a limited amount of time to connect with their potential jurors.

1. When you walk to stand in front of the jury box, pause before you begin to talk. As with any public speaking, your audience needs time to get used to the idea of you being there. It can be as short as 2 beats, but it needs to happen. It’s also a good time to take a breath and compose your thoughts. Also, be sure and smile.

2. Re-introduce yourself and what you’re doing there. The judge will say your name and tell you it’s time to ask questions, but that doesn’t mean the jury remembers what he or she said. Your intro can be brief. “Hi, as the court told you, I’m Joe Jones and I represent (name of client). Today, my job will be to select a jury who will be able to give my client a fair hearing…” You can also re-introduce your client and have them stand up. Be sure to practice how you expect them to stand and look. If they’re sheepish or nervous, the jury will see that.

3. Don’t hold objects in your hands. The defense lawyer in the case I watched held a jury chart, and the prosecutor held a laptop. It’s very distracting to hold things in your hands and it’s also a barrier between you and the jury. There’s usually a lectern available for use. Move it and set things down. It looks much more professional.Give your eye contact and attention to the jury, and refer back to your notes on the lectern when you need to. Also, be sure and don’t stand behind a lectern. Again, this is a barrier to any connection with the jury.

In the case I watched, both attorneys did all these things wrong. It was their first opportunity to speak directly to their potential jurors, and it could have been done so much better if they’d just started out correctly. Remember that saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”