Friday, December 31, 2010

Harness Jurors’ Wandering Minds: New Science

New research from Harvard University psychologists (Matthew A. Killingsworth & Daniel T. Gilbert) shows that people spend 46.9% of their waking hours “wandering”--thinking about what isn’t going on around them, what happened in the past, what might happen in the future or never at all. Which wouldn’t be such a big deal, except that, as the scientists put it: “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” People aren’t happy about what they’re thinking about during their “wandering” times.

How is this relevant to your trial practice? Well, if you aren’t keeping your jurors’ minds engaged, those minds are wandering. The likelihood of their attributing the unhappiness their wandering conjures up to your less-than-compelling presentation rather than their own meanderings, is high. Unhappy people don’t tend to favor those who make them unhappy! There goes your successful case...

All the more reason to do your level best to make your courtroom time count. Get to the point, be succinct, develop hard-hitting bullets and emotional catch-phrases. Use visuals of all kinds – models, boards, animations, power-point (the complex type, not just words on a slide) – and anything else your graphics support staff can dream up. Use focus groups to help you nail what matters to jurors and hone in on that.

The more you keep the jurors’ minds on your track, the less they are inclined to wander, the greater your chances of success.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Great Recession and Your Jury

A recent Pew Center Research Publication (September 24, 2010) brought to light how the Great Recession has had significantly different impact on two roughly equal halves of the American population. 55% experienced considerable hardship, including unemployment, missed mortgages or rent payments, and other such financial downturns. 45% however rode out the recession with much less difficulty, experiencing only minor hardship. This is potentially very useful information for jury selection.

Among the key findings (bearing in mind these are generalities, not absolutes):
- about seven-in-ten retirees and other older adults largely held their own during the recession
- however, seven-in-ten millennials (20-somethings) experienced the reverse, lots of hardship
- suburban and rural dwellers had a less rough go of it than city dwellers
- a college degree matters: about six-in-ten college graduates count themselves among the 45% who experienced fewer difficulties during the recession, compared to only 38% of those whose educational attainment was a high school diploma or less.

Be aware of these findings as you go about selecting your jurors. For example, a 20-something with a college degree who experienced many financial difficulties may be more sour and ungenerous than most of your college-educated individuals who typically have not faced as many hardships. A non-college educated retiree who held his or her own with relative ease may be financially cautious (as is often true for older jurors), but not dour or completely closed off to large awards.