If you have followed this blog over the last week you know that I was in a week long jury trial a couple of weeks ago. Here are four of the things I was reminded of during that trial:
1. Jurors take it seriously.
Whether during voir dire or after being selected, almost all jurors, even those who would rather be elsewhere, seem to treat the process with the seriousness it deserves. While there are certainly exceptions to everything it continues to be my experience that jurors attentively listen to all sides of a dispute and genuinely want to reach the “right” answer.
2. Direct examination is often more difficult than cross examination.
A good direct examination places the emphasis on the witness. The information comes from the witness and not the lawyer. Therefore, the lawyer has to ask open ended questions and let the witness do the talking. This can be difficult even in the best of circumstances. Preparing witnesses for that role is important so that difficult task becomes easier.
3. Exhibits should be organized for a smooth delivery.
You want to minimize the time wasted looking for exhibits or pages within an exhibit. Sometimes this can be unavoidable but good preparation, and knowing what you intend to use, can help you minimize the risk that it happens. Jurors (especially the ones who would rather be elsewhere) do not enjoy watching lawyers fumble around for documents.
4. Listening is the most important skill a trial lawyer can have.
As I have told the students I teach, listening is a skill, you can develop it and it is probably one of the most important things trial lawyers do. Here are just a few of the things you must listen to:
a. your own questions,
b. witnesses answers to your questions,
c. opposing counsel’s questions,
d. witnesses answers to opposing counsel’s questions,
e. opposing counsel’s objections,
f. judge’s rulings and,
g. during voir dire, statements made by prospective jurors.
This probably sounds elementary. It is not. I will write about why in later posts.