With millions, or billions, of dollars at risk, companies use an immense amount of data to influence sales decisions. Companies can’t afford to leave the choice of their product or service to chance. The same is true of many political campaigns – no politician wants to let her opponent win the battle of influencing the choice of which candidate should win an election.
This type of influence and persuasion is not limited to consumer-goods companies or politicians. Trial lawyers can learn a great deal from studying some basics of marketing and social psychology. After all, just like businesses and politicians, we are asking jurors to make a choice. Admittedly, there are important differences (we hope) between choosing shampoo and choosing whether an injured plaintiff will prevail at trial, but there are important similarities also. In this post, I want to describe 3 principles that trial lawyers can use to maximize the effectiveness of the way they present their cases to jurors.
Reciprocity – Reciprocity is the idea that someone is more inclined to buy something if you first provide them with something of value. This principle is behind all sorts of marketing. Just think of all the gifts and freebies that you get over an average year. In a trial, this principle can help in jury selection. For example, when you want jurors to lose their fear of self-disclosure, it helps to do some disclosing yourself first. That’s just one of the many ways to use the principle of reciprocity.
Visual Evidence– Visual evidence is particularly important today, as jurors have become more and more accustomed to seeing messages displayed in visual ways. From opening to witness exams to closing, visual evidence should be used throughout. And, just as important, keep it simple, and use the same visuals repeatedly so your message stays focused.
Commitment – Commitment refers to the principle that once someone commits to something, he is far more likely to do it. In the case of jury selection, jurors should be asked to commit to certain rules that may be important, at least generally. For example, a lawyer may ask a potential juror if she is in favor of caps on damages in every case. If the answer is no, it may be wise to emphasize that point during closing. It would be difficult for that juror to later go into the jury room and say she is in favor of caps.
There are whole books that could be written on this subject, but these are three principles that seem important during just about every jury trial. Please share in the comments any ideas and suggestions that might help all of us lawyers who are trying cases.