What is an experience that you’ve had where the voir dire really stood out to you?
I had a trial about two, maybe three weeks after going to the college in 2006. I was doing my best trying to be myself and make a personal connection with the jurors, but I was also doing all sorts of other reading and trying to learn and develop my skills. One thing I read was David Ball’s book, Damages. It was an earlier edition and one of the things he says is that you need to get bifocals so that you’re not looking over the top of reading glasses because that makes you look shifty and dishonest. That’s what he says. Well, I didn’t own bifocals but I couldn’t read very well without my reading glasses. But I did not want to look shifty and dishonest, and so believing what I read, I then concluded that what I would do is not wear my reading glasses. My memory isn’t good enough to remember the names of jurors so I had a little cheat sheet and I was trying to hold it out really far so I could read it. My arm wasn’t quite long enough and it was obvious what I was doing. And after I was doing this and trying to talk and what not, a juror in the front row grabbed her reading glasses and said “Here, you want to borrow my glasses?” . That was kind of a proof of that the jury will always save you as well as the importance to really be yourself and be vulnerable and people will relate to that. Later on during the trial, I was at a white board and my marker ran out of ink. One of the jurors reached into her purse, pulled out a magic marker and said “Want to use this?”. That case particularly was a real difference for me and significantly mattered in the voir dire. Over the years, I’ve learned that I can stand in front of a group of people that I can relate to and I don’t have to be perfect and I can be vulnerable and that will help me make a connection.
Had you thought about connecting with your jury that way before attending TLC?
No. I have to say that before that, for the most part, juries were a terrifying black box to me. I knew I wanted to get justice for my clients. And I knew I wanted to draw the line between right and wrong. But before TLC, I have to say I didn’t have much insight or any appreciation of how to make that connection about the power of the attorney connecting with the jury to tell the client’s story. I understand it now — and I practice it in all my cases, and I am honored to teach others how to do it as well.
Gaining the trust of the jury, when they come with all those negative preconceived ideas of lawyers, that’s huge, right?
Yeah, it is. A lot of what we teach is how to unlearn technique. And instead, learning some methods to help you return to the someone you were before you ever went to law school, when you were still more of a human being! One of the icons of the Trial Lawyers College is a reading of the book, The Velveteen Rabbit, where we, like a toy box of broken toys, hear stories about becoming real, and appreciated for what you — not what others are, or want you to be. It’s about being real; it’s about being a real human being and whenever there is any flavor of manipulation (which is always there if you have an agenda in voir dire) you are not a real human being anymore — you have become one of those lawyers who’s trying to trick me, and your chances of winning are greatly diminished before you’ve even called your first witness.
Tell me about the Washington Regional on Voir Dire
You owe it to yourselves to go. There are many reasons not to be able to spend three weeks in Wyoming. Travel expense, expense in the sense of lost income, time away from your family, being away from the practice, all of that stuff. It takes a bite out of your life. But I think there is literally no excuse not to go to a Regional Seminar and see it for yourself. How this method works is like trying to really describe to someone the concept of “love”, “hate”, “disgust” or “hope”. How can you really explain that to someone who has never felt it? What TLC is for me at its core is being able to know myself, to be able to show who you are to other people, to be able to make a connection with them and other people. This works in life and we learn how to apply it in trial as well. It’s at work with the judges; it works with the witnesses; to be who you are, and to ultimately know it will work with your juries who are going to decide the fate of your clients.
At Washington, we are going to teach lawyers about how to speak with your jury pool during jury selection (voir dire). A lot of lawyers view voir dire with fear, because it involves this laying out of yourself in part. One of the things that I think is really, really important about voir dire is unlearning the need to “have an agenda” and instead tell myself that I really don’t need an agenda and instead my goal is to get to know these people as human beings and let them know me. If I have an agenda as early as voir dire of persuading them in a particular way, it will be seen as manipulative. That’s what people think lawyers are. They think “this guy is going to come and try to trick me” and that’s what is going to turn them off to me. At Washington, you’ll learn how to conduct a different voir dire that is not manipulate or calculated.
What about lawyers that have already been to a TLC event? Will they get something out of it?
In the day-to-day aggravation of practicing law, maintaining a perspective on yourself and your relations to other people isn’t easy. So what we do takes work, a commitment to being aware and a desire to being a better human being, but it really takes attention to listening and being conscious of your own actions and behaviors — in court, and out. In some regard it’s really like the gym. I went to the gym, I worked out, I have good cardiovascular capacity and I’m in good shape. Now, I don’t have to go to the gym for the next two years? You need to work the muscles and exercise and practice this stuff all the time. Put another way: a professional musician, a concert pianist at the top of her skill level takes two years off, doesn’t play a note. Is she going to be able to go in and produce a good concert? Of course not. This takes exercise and practice. People call it recharging your batteries. The other thing is that it’s fun. It’s fun because you’ll reconnect with other lawyers who want to be people, other lawyers who want to support other lawyers in the process of being human beings. You’ll make friends that you didn’t have before, you’ll reconnect with friends that you did have before. The worst thing that will happen at the Washington Regional in March is you’ll have great food in a lovely place surrounded by some wonderful people. What risk is there in that?!!
About Steve Fury:
Steve is a principle partner in a small, intimate law firm in Seattle, WA that is devoted to helping those who have been personally injured. In addition to his service for the Trial Lawyers College, Steve is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), an invitation-only national honorary organization for the trial bar; and the the founding president of Justice Advocacy Africa, a non-profit organization that provides trial advocacy training to African lawyers.
Come join Steve, his law partner Paco Duarte, their colleague Connie Henderson and the rest of the TLC faculty team at the Voir Dire Seminar in Washington, March 17-20!
– See more at: http://www.triallawyerscollege.org/BlogPost.aspx?g=0a02950e-7689-4da8-8d3b-b6ae95adbd02#sthash.QOJljRKG.dpuf