Voir Dire

Here are some thoughts on how to immediately and effectively connect with a jury:

  • Stand and face the panel
  • Own the courtroom floor, don’t stand still, don’t pace frantically either
  • Maintain proper interpersonal distance, don’t stand too far away, don’t get too close
  • Don’t think of it as rocket science, think of it as chit chat…organized, focused chit chat
  • Pay attention to body language – yours and theirs
  • Uncross your arms
  • Don’t stick your hands in your pocket
  • Don’t hold your hands behind your back
  • Don’t read questions
  • Make sure all the jurors can hear you
  • Give to get
  • Don’t write down answers (there’s not enough time)
  • Speak up
  • Lean in slightly towards the juror you’re speaking with
  • Invite the jurors to speak as a group if the court allows
  • Don’t use a podium unless the court requires it
  • Make eye contact with everyone, somehow, and don’t look like an FBI agent while you’re doing so
  • Be animated, friendly, engaging, interested, open, genuine
  • Use open ended questions
  • Don’t advocate
  • If you feel phony guess what…
  • Encourage the formation of groups
  • Listen to the answers and deal with them
  • Mirror
  • Don’t paraphrase answers
  • Stop talking so much – the jurors are the ones we’re interested in hearing from
  • Give tidbits of information about the case, but don’t make an opening statement – the jurors will see right through you and the judge won’t be too happy either
  • Proactively transition between jurors instead of reactively  jumping around
  • Be polite and respectful to everyone always
  • Don’t call a juror by their first name, instead use Mr, Ms, or Juror number
  • Ask the judge how the jurors should be addressed
  • Relax your face muscles and let them speak too
  • If the jurors are answering “yes” and “no” then wake up and smell the coffee – you’re doing it wrong
  • Don’t point
  • Do gesture palm side up
  • Keep track of the responses somehow and highlight problem or question mark jurors after each round
  • Do not spend more than half your time on liability
  • Unless you have a special knack for keeping track, have someone help you
  • Make sure you have heard from all the jurors
  • Be extremely courteous and deferential to the trial judge
  • Be civil and courteous to the other lawyer
  • Don’t roll your eyes
  • Don’t have your client assist you
  • Don’t spend all of your time on the very last row of jurors unless there is a chance they will make the box
  • Don’t look scared even if you are, but it’s fine to admit to being nervous
  • Embrace the cliché - honey works better than vinegar
  • Embrace a touch of levity whenever appropriate and natural
  • Don’t allow negativity to permeate and overwhelm the proceeding
  • Even when striking jurors, aspire to the positive

These tips are included in the Voir Dire booklet being published by the SKWC law firm with a release date of December 2010.  If you would like to be on the mailing list, please send me an email.