Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Be Good to Your Jurors: Connect the Dots


A disturbing comment I hear repeatedly in jury debriefings and focus groups is that the attorneys do not connect their points or evidence to the specifics of the complaint.

Furthermore, attorneys rarely fully explain the jury instructions to the jury, and worse – fail to tie in those instructions to the attorney’s interpretation of the case.

This leaves jurors in the lurch. They start deliberations with no anchor, nothing to help ground them. They hardly know how to start. They are confused, perturbed, and unable to think in a reasonable manner about the case.

Be good to your jurors. Always make the connection for them, in obvious, preferably visual ways, between the evidence and testimony, and the complaint/cross-complaint. Do the same with the jury instructions.

Experience shows time and again, that the attorney who presents his or her case the most clearly, all else being roughly equal, is the most likely to succeed.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Will Juror Empathy Help or Hurt Your Case?


Delving into the group affiliation tendencies and reading habits of your jurors can give you valuable clues to whether or not a juror will be empathic, meaning able or willing to help others in need.

We’ve usually taken this to mean that the nature of the groups people join, and the material they read, are good indicators of how jurors will assess facts. Persons joining a law-and-order type group are more likely to be defense-oriented, persons volunteering at a handicapped facility more likely to be swayed by the plaintiff, and certainly, that still holds true.

However, studies show that the mere fact of belonging to groups of whatever ilk is more likely to be connected to concern for others. Persons who are socially isolated tend to be less generous towards others.

The same appears to be true of reading. Just the fact of reading seems to be connected to one’s empathy. Persons who read little may be less empathic, and, more specifically, that persons who read less fiction report themselves to be less empathic.

As always, the types of jurors you want to include/exclude depend on your case. The more you know about what goes into decision-making, for example, empathy or the lack thereof, the more likely you are to choose appropriate jurors. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

Motivate Jurors Positively, Not Just Negatively


It used to be thought that by activating dire consequences in jurors’ minds, jurors would rush to fix or avoid consequences. This has held true whether one is plaintiff justifying huge damages, or defense arguing “They’re the bad guy, not us. Don’t let them get away with it.” And, certainly, threats to life, limb or pocketbook attract our attention. TV ads and commercials point constantly to just how prevalent such thinking is, and marketing research has conducted study after study that justifies the “Get ‘em scared and they’ll come running” position.

However, more recent studies show that “gain-framed” appeals, or appeals that encourage people to positive benefits, have a slight persuasive edge over “loss-framed” appeals. The researchers suggest that it might be because we don’t like being bullied or threatened into behavior.

When it comes to trial practice, use both. Whether you are plaintiff or defense, show jurors the consequences of their verdict, and give them a positive theme with which to uplift. Help jurors see how their decision will accomplish a higher good, something that benefits the larger population, or their community, or improve a system. Something that motivates jurors to feel good about their decision, not just terrified into it.

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Power Sit


Now that we are back in the courtroom as opposed to our above-the-waist-only position on Zoom, our witnesses/experts’ body language is once again relevant.

In working with witnesses, I developed the “Power Sit” – my shorthand for “Please sit up straight, your back against the back of the chair, with your head level, arms on the arms of the chair,” because experience showed me that witnesses who sit this way, demonstrating good posture, are deemed more credible by jurors.

How does this work?

         - The “Power Sit” bolsters your witnesses’ self-confidence and self-esteem, a consequence of self-respect. Your witnesses are more likely to give credible testimony because they feel better about themselves.

         - Your witnesses are more likely to be perceived by jurors as credible and persuasive, because in our society, those who maintain good posture are considered worthy of respect.

It then stands to reason, that with just a little attention to your own posture, whether sitting at counsel table, standing at the podium or in the well, you can be an even more powerful and convincing litigator. Every little bit helps when it comes to winning your case.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Post-Pandemic Jurors’ Mixed Feelings About Corporations


As we slowly come out of the pandemic, albeit in fits and starts, juror attitudes have understandably shifted in these difficult and trying times. It is inevitable that among your jurors there will be those who are recently unemployed, some for the first time in their work-lives, along with others who have lost savings, homes, opportunities, even careers.


This has corporate defendants obviously concerned, for if corporations have often fared poorly in jurors’ eyes, many are doing even worse now. However, this is hardly the time for plaintiff’s counsel to cry “Huzzah,” for along with the public’s disdain for corporate greed and malfeasance, comes jurors’ disapproval of any case that smacks of the frivolous or the not “truly madly deeply” justified. Especially if plaintiff’s win could mean a cut in jobs for employees.


At least some of the jurors in any given panel understand the consequence of large awards. Don’t forget that among today’s unemployed are many who were in the white-collar strata of the workforce, and that these unemployed are able to educate their less-informed fellow jurors on the realities of what happens to employees, their jobs, wages and benefits, when corporations are hit with huge verdicts.


Whether representing plaintiff or defendant, keep in mind the current composition of your jury pool and current juror attitudes. This will go far in helping you win your case.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Nuisance of Jurors


Now that we’re slowly coming out of the pandemic with its restrictions, trials are resuming. With that, jurors are once again entering your world. Darn.

Trials would be so much easier if you didn’t have to deal with jurors. Jurors wander off mentally during your most critical testimony. They are distracted by the need to scratch an itch, or by a lawyer’s mannerisms. Jurors are irritated by an expert’s vocal tone, they disapprove of a witness’s attitude. Jurors misunderstand the law and all too often make it up as they go along. Jurors impose their own version of what’s right or wrong, ignoring to a distressing degree the jury instructions, regardless of the judge’s admonitions. Jurors deliberate as a group, which introduces the whole notion of group dynamics, complicating the matter further. And that’s but the tip of the juror iceberg . . .

But jurors must be dealt with, and more importantly, you must deal with how they come to the decisions they make. For the better you can determine or discern what impacts those decisions, the more likely you are to succeed at trial.

This is where intense, targeted use of the pre-trial focus group can be especially valuable. Instead of letting focus group “jurors” elect a foreperson and talk over each other to arrive at a consensual decision, have a facilitator ask probing questions of each and every juror, to analyze how each juror arrives at their various conclusions, as well as observe how group dynamics affect those conclusions.

Knowledge is power.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

How to Expose Witness Lies Effectively


As much as jurors resent a witness who lies, you must have inconvertible evidence that someone is out and out lying in order to even suggest it.

Even then, it’s best to let the jurors come to the conclusion that a witness is lying on their own. People are persuaded by their own reasoning far more than by your proffered statements. Use words such as “incorrect” “inaccurate” “not forthcoming” to describe a witness’s testimony as opposed to “lying” or “untruthful.” Let the jurors attach the word “lie” to the testimony – as they will, if your presentation of the witness’s falsehood is effective.

One of the most effective ways to help the jurors get there, is to use the tried-and-true  “Chart of Inconsistencies.” As defense, for example, you could bullet on a chart what the plaintiff told Dr. A, the different story he told Dr. B, and the yet more different tale he told at deposition. Or as plaintiff, you could bullet on a chart what defendant told the police, what was discovered in emails, what she swore to in interrogatories. Such a chart alone, since it references facts, has more impact on today’s jurors than your forceful “And he lied!!” ever could.