Voir dire presents the trial attorney the very first interaction with potential and eventual jurors. Having selected a number of juries, experienced litigators may find the experience rewarding and without stress. No matter how experienced the attorney may be, in civil trials, clients rarely (if ever) have experienced the voir dire process.
Prior to the day of trial, the attorney should sit down with the clients and advise them that their every move, expression and gesture is being watched by the jury pool. It is important to advise them how to dress to garner the best sympathy and/or respect from the jury. Wearing a Rolex or expensive jewelry may sour jurors on whether to award the client a substantial judgment in a personal injury action or for consumer fraud. On the other hand, in business litigation, well-tailored suits, dress shoes, and fine but understated accessories present an accomplished and successful image.
Most importantly, litigators should advise the clients that during voir dire, both the lawyer and the client are making their first interaction with the jurors. Lawyers know it is an opportunity to talk and therefore connect with the juror; clients do not. These jurors will be spending days, if not weeks, listening to the clients and their witnesses tell their story. Most jurors are not happy in a courtroom, missing work and family. Consequently, when it is the juror’s time to talk, the clients should act engaged with and pay attention to the discussion between the lawyers and the potential jurors. If a client’s demeanor expresses a sense of detachment or even resentment for being in court, jurors will notice it. Instead, clients should act as if each juror is a guest in their living room, telling a story, and nod and smile accordingly.