Are “Millennial Jurors” to Be Feared or Celebrated

A great post on Associate’s Mind, entitled “Millennial Jurors: Entertain Us,” discusses the challenges facing trial lawyers trying to communicate with Gen-Y jurors.  In addition to prognostications about how these young adults can’t sit still and pay attention for the hours needed to take in information during a jury trial (how will they check their smartphones?!?), the post (which itself references an article in the Texas Bar Journal) notes how information needs to be presented to Millennial jurors in shorter visual “bites,” as opposed to purely verbal, format.  Better make sure it’s not boring, either.

Undoubtedly a cottage industry will sprout from within the ranks of  jury consultants and trial support firms of “Millennial specialists” who claim to know the secret to engaging Gen-Y jurors.  But I don’t think the shorter attention span, and increased need for engaging visual, as well as verbal, content is really that new or a bad thing at all.  I’ve written elsewhere how trials are too long and taxing on jurors’ minds and attention spans.  Anyone trying cases in the past 25 or 30 years knows that a purely verbal presentation–without visual aids (even rudimentary visual aids) is risky, even if the subject matter is pretty sexy.

I think that, while the (alleged) changes in attention span, and increased appetite for visual stipulation seen in Gen-Y (and presumably later) generations might be lamented by parents, educators, psychologists, novelists (and other print media writers) and others, it should not necessarily be lamented by those in the business of trying cases.  Rather, like any development, it should be prepared for and embraced.  It is true that evidence will need to be presented differently if it’s going to get through to Millennial jurors, and this will require some reflection and research.  (Perhaps more in-depth research than was undertaken in developing the Texas Bar Journal article, which was simply a survey of law school students.)  And, probably, some trial and error.

Turning the coin over, though, there will surely be evidence that only the younger generations will “get,” at least at first.  For example, while it’s commonplace now for defense lawyers to scour the internet for impeachment evidence, there are older jurors who don’t surf the internet and don’t understand “The Facebook,” Twitter or LinkedIn.  Cases involving new media, reality television and certain progressive technologies might be completely foreign to more senior jurors but completely familiar to members of Gen-Y.  (OK, I’m a little biased because I practice in Los Angeles, where every case will someday be “pre-tried” on TMZ).  In short, there should be a place at the table for every kind of juror.  The challenge to the trial lawyer is to engage, as best as possible, with jurors of every generation, not just the over-30 demographic.

We’ve got to raise our game, or get out of the way.

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