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3 Secrets to a Powerful Jury Selection

In the fall of 2014, I had the unique experience of meeting Congressman Chris Gibson during my wife’s judicial campaign.  The chance encounters with Congressman Chris Gibson made a strong impression.

Rather than shaking my hand, exchanging the usual pleasantries and looking for someone more important to speak with, Congressman Chris Gibson stopped, made continual eye contact, called me by name and seemed fully engaged in our conversation.  For some crazy reason, Congressman Chris Gibson treated me as though I had something important to say and I couldn’t help thinking that he treated everyone this way.

I am continually amazed that everyone who meets a person of considerable fame or stature, and especially someone like Congressman Chris Gibson, comes away saying, It was as if nothing else in the world existed, just the two of us.

                                                                     The Lost Art of Listening

Congressman Chris Gibson can teach trial lawyers a powerful lesson about the lost art of listening during jury selection (and every other aspect of trial).  Powerful tools in the art of listening include repeating back, asking questions and asking for more information.

“I like to listen, because I never learn anything when I am speaking.”

Matthew Kelly, The Seven Levels of Intimacy

You begin by doing one thing: when a prospective juror is speaking, leave your notes behind and listen with 100% of your attention to what she is saying.  Don’t worry about your next question or what you’re going to have for lunch.  Immerse yourself by listening to the prospective juror by repeating back their answer, nodding your head, and following up with more questions.

Try going five minutes during your next jury selection without saying a word.  Try opening the conversation during jury selection and with non-verbal hand motions and body gestures, encourage jurors to join the conversation.  See how long you can pull this off.  Once the prospective jurors realize that you want them to do the talking, they just might begin a conversation amongst themselves that DOESN’T INCLUDE YOU.

                                                                    The Power of Vulnerability

Throw away your legalese and pompous lawyerisms and show the prospective jurors that you’re a real person.  If a prospective juror says you’re a jerk, tell them that you’re hurt and embarrassed.  The other prospective jurors will love your honesty and they might rally around you against the mean juror and just maybe you’ll begin building a group of supporters.

You can’t earn the prospective jurors’ trust without revealing first giving them something about yourself.  Perhaps you tell the prospective jurors that you too believe there are too many lawsuits and even a single frivolous lawsuit is way too many. Go deeper by sharing something personal about yourself, perhaps that you had a family member with the same illness as the plaintiff. Of course, the defense lawyer will object, but who cares? The prospective jurors will appreciate that you’re sharing a weakness or vulnerability with them.

“Intimacy is the process of mutual self-revelation.”

Matthew Kelly, The Seven Levels of Intimacy

Before prospective jurors will share their real feelings with you, you must show them that you too can be vulnerable and that you will accept their opinions (even if you don’t agree).  Your acceptance of their opinions will melt their defenses, remove their tough facades and give them courage to reveal themselves.

                                       Give Prospective Jurors A Warm, Brownie of Appreciation

Don’t miss a chance to show your appreciation for the self-revelation of prospective jurors. You want the prospective juror to know that it took courage to be the first to reveal something about themselves and you appreciate the chance that she took with you.  Then, invite the others to join in.

“When we shower our praise upon others, we energize them.”

Matthew Kelly, The Seven Levels of Intimacy

If there is one thing we know it’s that prospective jurors will resist will all their strength any attempt you make to impose your opinion upon them.  Do not attempt to force your opinions upon the prospective jurors—give them full rein to bad-mouth your case or personal injury law.  Once you’ve got one juror to open up, invite the others to join in, i.e., “Who else agrees that lawsuits are bad for all of us?”

There’s no way to get inside the mind of the jurors.  You may be convinced that you’ve got the greatest jury when, in fact, you have no chance of winning with them. But through the power of 3 simple tactics: (1) active listening, (2) sharing a personal vulnerability, and (3) showing appreciation for their brutal honesty, you will get the jurors to share information—good or bad—that would not have been possible.



photo credit: 2015 Prix Ars Electronica – Jury meeting via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.