There is an understanding among legal professionals, and the general population at large, that lawyers are rarely selected to be jurors. Perhaps this is because attorneys do not want fellow legal professionals to apply their legal training and experiences to legal matters by serving as jurors since this could negatively impact a case. This may also be because lawyers do not always meet the demographic background that lawyers want of jurors who will be deciding their case. However, lawyers can make good jurors and attorneys should be more open-minded about seating fellow lawyers on juries.
I only had jury duty once in my life. I was very excited by this process, and I hoped that I would be selected for a jury. Most people hate jury duty since it can interrupt their lives and make completing work and personal tasks more difficult. However, I knew that my job would be fine with me taking time off to serve on a jury, and I did not have much pressing going on in my social life, so I was really gunning to get on a jury just so I could experience this part of the legal process.
I was selected to be questioned by the lawyers and the judge in a given case, and I was seated in the jury box by the judge. I was super excited since I thought this would mean that I would serve as a juror! Sadly, one of the lawyers exercised a challenge for me, and I was excused from serving. Given all that I had heard about lawyers rarely being selected for a jury, I expected that this might happen, but it was unfortunate for me not to be selected for the jury nonetheless.
In any event, lawyers may make solid jurors for a number of reasons. For one, lawyers may be more willing to base their decisions on the law and the facts of a case rather than factors that are not too essential to a matter. It is possible that jurors may base decisions based on how a lawyer presents an argument rather than the point that is actually being made.
For instance, I once talked to a lawyer who conducted interviews of jurors after a case had been decided. To this lawyer’s dismay, the jurors mentioned what the lawyers were wearing to court each day just as much as the arguments that were made in the case, and it seemed as if jurors were not basing their decisions entirely on the law and the facts of the case. Of course, I in no way want to demean those jurors without legal training who do all they can to base their decisions on careful consideration of the evidence that is presented in a case. Nevertheless, lawyers may be better positioned to base their decisions about a case on objective evidence rather than extraneous factors.
Lawyers might also make good jurors since attorneys may have a solid ability to sense the credibility of witnesses. Lawyers routinely need to question witnesses, whether during depositions, court hearings, or trials. Because of their background examining witnesses many lawyers have a good sense of whether a witness is telling the truth or fibbing.
One important function of a jury is to judge the credibility of witnesses, and jurors bring their own lived experiences to bear when performing this task. Many people-facing professionals have a good sense of whether the testimony of one witness should be considered more than another. Lawyers are particularly trained to fulfill this function, which can make them solid resources on juries.
Moreover, lawyers may have more respect for the administration of justice than other members of the public. Jury duty is often a pain in the butt, and most people try as hard as they can to avoid being picked for a jury. This resentment at being selected for a jury and having to put life on hold for days or weeks can impact how a juror approaches their job.
Surely, many lawyers who serve as jurors may also be bitter at needing to sacrifice their time. However, lawyers are trained — beginning in law school and continuing throughout their careers — to respect the judicial system. This may make lawyers who serve as jurors more clear-eyed about the task at hand and less likely to let extraneous factors impact their decision-making.
All told, I doubt I will be picked for jury service anytime soon since the impression that lawyers make undesirable jurors is deeply entrenched. However, lawyers can make solid jurors for a number of reasons, and attorneys should consider picking them more often as jurors in a variety of circumstances.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.