You know how important it is to build a connection with your jury. But as more and more millennials are serving on jury duty, many lawyers struggle to build a connection with them. Millennials make up about one third of the jury pool today. They tend to be outspoken and can end up as your foreperson, so it’s increasingly important to understand what resonates with them, how they learn and how to best communicate with them.
Who are millennials?
Millennials (aka the digital generation) were born in the early 1980s to 2000 and make up 25 percent of the population. Technology has been a visceral part of millennials’ lives. As of 2017, 56 million millennials were part of or looking to enter the workforce, more than the 53 Gen Xers or the 41 million Baby Boomers working alongside them.
So why do millennials get a bad rap?
Anecdotally, millennials are criticized for being lazy and having a poor work ethic. What some view as ambition, others see as unwillingness to pay their dues. Millennials are also widely denigrated as entitled narcissists, unable to see beyond their own needs and aspirations.
While these stereotypes may ring true for some in the millennial cohort, we find that millennials also have a lot of positive qualities to contribute to a jury.
Millennials are noted as being independent thinkers who are reluctant to take things at face value. They care deeply about justice and social change, and show a willingness to fight for the underdog.
Dr. Christy Price, EdD, a psychology professor at Dalton State College, became interested in millennial learners when she discovered a performance and expectation gap (Price, 2009).
Out of her research, Dr. Price developed the 5 Rs of how millennials learn:
- Research-based methods: Millennials learn best with a variety of visual, auditory and kinesthetic delivery. They have shorter attention spans and do best with a variety of learning strategies.
- Relevance: Millennials value information based on how relevant it is to their lives. With access to everything under the sun at their fingertips in the age of Google, information for information’s sake does not impress them.
- Rationale: Millennials must understand the rationale behind a given policy or regulation to respond positively. The do not respond to authoritative commands or learning environments as well as previous generations.
- Relaxed: Millennials prefer a more laidback learning approach with more flexibility, freedom and creativity.
- Rapport: Millennials thrive on personal relationships. They grew up in environments with more focused attention and learn better when they feel a connection to the instructor.
So how can the 5 Rs help you understand the best way to reach a millennial juror?
For many millennials, their time serving on your jury could be their first experience in the court system. As a generation that tends to be more informal and laidback, the formality of the court can be overwhelming and alienating.
That’s why it’s important to help them understand the system so that they feel comfortable and respect it.
Here are 4 ways you can tailor your jury strategy to better reach millennials:
- Mix up your presentation with a variety of visuals, including electronic exhibits, boards and physical exhibits. Incorporate technology seamlessly and thoughtfully.
- Educate your jury on the intricacies of your case, so they can understand the nuances and make the information relevant to their lives.
- Don’t forget to explain the law and the consequences of the law so that they can fully understand your rationale.
- Attempt to build a connection and be personal (when appropriate) instead of authoritative and formal.
As millennials represent an ever-increasing segment of the jury, knowing how to communicate with this generation can empower your strategy and assist with everything from voir dire to presentation development.
It’s never easy to speak to a diverse group of individuals who are chosen to serve, but with some thoughtful preparation, you can increase your chances of a positive connection with your millennial jurors.