Jury selection can make some lawyers nervous. It shouldn’t. It is actually a great time to develop a rapport with the prospective panel. It should be fun and helpful to your case. Consider these thoughts for your next voir dire:
1. There are no bad answers. Lawyers worry about what someone might say. Better to know then, than learn later. And not worrying helps you relax during the process.
2. They have to like you. Be professional but enjoy their time and yours. Relax and make it fun.
3. Meet their expectations. Most have not seen a trial. Be prepared. Be engaging. Be polished. Dress professionally.
4. They have to talk. Questions that don’t elicit answers are not the best. Questions that end with the lawyer saying I take it by your silence….aren’t really helpful. Get them engaged. Get them talking. Ask others if they agree or disagree with a juror’s opinion.
5. They have to understand the issues. The jury selection should ultimately allow the light to come on during trial. Inquire of them about the issues without discussing the facts of the case. How the issues are framed in voir dire will remind them of those issues during the trial, which will help.
6. The lawyer has to understand the jurors’ feelings and beliefs. So it is critically important to ask them what their feelings and beliefs are on key issues. See #4 above.
7. It’s a placeholder for closing argument. Start the trial with the theme and end with the theme you started with. You have to announce the theme and inquire on your theme during voir dire. For example, in an accident that was unforeseeable, your theme might be “There but for the grace of God go I.” Ask about unforeseeable events. Tie the theme into the questions. Who has said that phrase, or believes it, or experienced it. It should all come back to them in closing.
8. Handle the bad answers (I know I know #1 above). There are no bad answers but someone will say something that could startle you or that you fear will infect the jury. Don’t panic. Know your jury and go to a juror with whom you have rapport and who you believe may counter or lessen the impact. And no matter what, never let them see you sweat. Take it and move on smoothly to the next topic.