Last week I spent a full day at the county courthouse performing my civic responsibility of jury duty for the first time ever. I had to sacrifice a day of writing, but I couldn’t forget about business!
Here are my seven business lessons of jury duty:
1. A little respect goes a long way.
I was so impressed with the way the judge managed the courtroom by treating everyone with so much courtesy and respect. Pre-emptive apologies were made for the interruption to our lives, the temperature of the room, and the cramped quarters. Next time you suspect something may upset a client, acknowledge it before they do.
2. Maintain a level of comfort.
Once we were selected, the first order of business for us twelve jurors was to order lunch. A refrigerator in the jury room held an assortment of soft drinks, and the bailiff made sure the coffee never ran too low. Provide comfortable seating, put on a pot of coffee, and if you’re so inclined heat up a batch of place-and-bake cookies. Little expressions of concern go a long way.
3. Assume everybody’s always watching you.
As I listened to the facts of the case, the skill level of the lawyers struck me as markedly different. (It was a civil case, so they were both private pay attorneys.) If they were my only two choices, I know who’d get my business. Think beyond your current client or business matter to all those affected and how they will perceive you.
4. Presentation is everything.
I was going to call this point ‘grammar counts’, but presentation is about more than what you say. At a couple of points the plaintiff and her lawyer both slipped into poor grammar and I found myself making unfair assumptions. Human beings are judgmental and one slip can cause you to be put into all kinds of boxes. The way you carry yourself and interact with others is just as important as the content you deliver.
5. Everything is an opportunity to learn.
I learned a bit about the poultry industry from the plaintiff, some things about how medical records are created and retained from a witness, and the details of a new physical education program in the local elementary schools from another juror. That last one gave me an idea for a parenting article and a short story. Keep your mind open in all situations for things that might help you in your business or personal life.
6. Prepare, prepare, prepare – then rest your case.
I thought I spotted a couple of times the testimony took one or both of the attorneys by surprise. Luckily in a courtroom, they’re not the ones answering questions. They simply move on. When you don’t know quite how a situation will play out, it’s best to have as much information as possible. However, this can lead to procrastination if you’re not careful. Prepare as best you can, but when surprises arise, remain calm.
7. It’s all about the numbers.
In his closing statements, the defendant’s lawyer pulled out his handy white board that had all the pertinent facts laid out in an easy to understand format. (We ended up ruling in his favor.) You can have a great personality and a smooth presentation, but in the end people want to know you’re going to deliver.
Those are the lessons I took from the courthouse that day. That, a very thorough grocery list, and the assurance that I won’t be called back for two years. Many reasons to celebrate!