By Dale Gribow
I have always instructed the lawyers in my office that when they get within 5 miles of the courthouse to be the most courteous driver out there. You never know if the person you just cut off or flipped off is going to be on your jury………..or if he or she is the judge or part of the court staff.
After a jury trial many good trial lawyers will offer to take the jurors to dinner after first explaining to them that the attorney does not want to talk to them about the case but rather to THANK THEM for their service. After the second drink the jurors usually will ask questions and by doing so the attorney learns for the next trial what was good or bad
The first Impression of an attorney is key as is the posture of the lawyer. As a young trial lawyer I was defending someone who was on parole and was charged with five felony counts so I could not plead my client to anything. Today I would not take a case like this but it was a challenge.
After the trial I asked if any jurors would be willing to speak to me since they had all voted Not Guilty and I had no idea how they came up with a NOT GUILTY.
Jurors commented to me that the DA’s shoes were scuffed and his belt was old and worn whereas my shoes were shiny and I looked “together”. They also commented on the DA having dirty finger nails and that mine were clean. In other words appearance counts. Without having talked to the jury I would never have considered these issues.
Jurors also look at how the attorney’s materials are arranged on counsel table; are they messy and disorganized. Can the attorney easily retrieve documents on the counsel table?
Client sensitivity is also important to the jury. They look at whether the attorney hugs his/her client and does the lawyer stay with the client during recess or lunch and walk the client back to his car? In other words why would an attorney disregard his/her client at lunch? When I try a case I always sit outside the courtroom with my client and have the husband and wife hold hands as the jury walks back from lunch or into court in the AM.
It makes more sense to talk to your client at lunch and read your notes while they are there and can answer your questions. You never know when jurors are around and observing how you interact with your client. They look to see if you like or dislike your client.
Jurors also look at how an attorney shows respect for the judge, the clerk and the bailiff? Does the attorney stand up to show respect for the judge?
The court staff should be treated as professionals if you want to score points with the jury. These jurors expect the attorney to treat the witnesses on both sides as well as opposing counsel with respect.
Believe it or not the jurors are concerned about their space and an attorney getting to close to the jury box. They question why the attorney is looking at them?
When the attorney walks into the courtroom, the jurors do NOT like eye contact from the lawyer….at least in the beginning of the trial. Some experts think it appears phony as does the lawyers smile?
Jurors do not like to hear the argument “after hearing the evidence you will return a verdict………. ….” But rather the attorney should say “you will be instructed by the judge.” In addition “The Judge has instructed you so let us now examine the evidence and see where it leads us”
FAILED technical presentations are a waste of the juror’s time. The jurors also ask why is the attorney spending so much time on that issue and why is the lawyer wasting our time? Why wonder why lawyers can’t just stipulate to things. And lawyers should always remember to thank the jury and after the trial and thank you note to the witnesses goes a long way.
Though a lawyer can be friendly with court personnel, the jurors do not like the parties schmoozing with the court personnel. The court personnel also “ Do not like an attorney to bang on the courtroom door. They assume you should know it is closed for a reason.
Common sense is also important for a lawyer. The lawyer should be sure their cell phone is off and they should never text or surf the net inside the courtroom.
It is common courtesy, with the courts approval, to give copies of your witness list and trial briefs to every court staff member as well as opposing counsel.
In addition the attorney should thank the court personnel after the trial for helping them during this trial. The attorney can do this by taking the court personnel to lunch after the trial along with the key witnesses……….whether they win or lose.
During the trial the attorney should always refer to the judge as “your honor” and when the attorney says “with all due respect” the jury things the lawyer is saying the judge is wrong.
Jurors know who is taking the high road so do so.