As part of our Lawyer2Lawyer series, Beasley Allen’s Lance Gould provides his thoughts on speaking to jurors at trial. A lawyer in our Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section, Lance has been with the firm since 1997 and has tried a large number of cases before a jury.
People spend hours on end each day consuming media from a wide range of sources. It could be television, radio, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. It’s a constant consumption of information. If you want to get someone’s attention, you must strive for simplicity.
Jurors often find the law to be intimidating, the facts of a case complex, and the application of the law to the facts a real challenge. The goal of a trial lawyer should be to tell a straightforward and compelling story, as simply as possible. A story that is stripped of legal jargon, irrelevant facts, and unnecessary background that may serve only to distract and confuse the jury.
Lawyers tend to talk too much and try to exhibit how smart we are. We should work hard to keep our messages short, to the point, and in everyday language. A smart trial lawyer knows that “plain-talk” is always better than a bunch of “fancy words” with the same meaning. “Plain-talk” is not only easy to understand, it effortlessly packs more emotional power in a message without giving the appearance that you’re trying too hard to persuade. When conveying a message to jurors we should resist some of the legal jargon we learned in law school and convey information in simple words and easily understandable terms.
A good story can be relatively short, and it can reach hearts and minds with fewer words. Jurors favor easy-to-follow narratives. Simple sentences are more powerful and easier to remember than complex ones. A soundbite is better than a rambling paragraph. Simplistic storytelling is crucial at all stages of the trial.
Today’s jurors do not tolerate repetition and boredom on the part of the lawyer and reflect this by adverse verdicts against the offender. In the courtroom jurors simply stop listening and begin thinking about other things. Jurors want the bottom line, and they want it simply as well as briefly. Keep it simple.
This story appears in the March 2020 issue of The Jere Beasley Report. For more like this, visit the Report online and subscribe.