By Hon. (Ret.) Ken E. Adair
Eye Contact is Important
Video Transcribed: Hi, my name is Ken Adair. I’m a people’s lawyer and a retired judge, and I want to talk to you about civil voir dire. Today I’m going to talk about eye contact with jurors and why that is important. Lawyers are terrified, and you ought to be terrified. It’s a very intimidating process to conduct a jury trial.
It’s very vulnerable. You put yourself out there, and you want a jury to find for your client, essentially find in your favor, to find that you’ve done a good job conveying your case. But why is eye contact so important?
You don’t look at the forehead. You don’t stare at the nose. These are stage tricks that are taught to people with stage fright. And though this is somewhat like a stage, it’s not staged fright. You have got to connect with those jurors.
Now the first thing I do when I go in front of a jury is made eye contact. Before I open my mouth at all, I make eye contact with every juror. I’ll look at them, and I nod and I acknowledge and I thank them. I might move my lips a little for purpose of saying, “Thank you. Nice to see you.” Just look at them. And I don’t say anything, but I just look at them and make eye contact. Now there’s a purpose for that, and the purpose is to identify those that I immediately connect with.
This is in the real world. This is in a conference room. This might be at a convention. It might be at Disneyland. Wherever you’re in a crowd at the basketball game, football game. There are people that you just look at and you immediately identify with. There are those that you don’t immediately identify with.
Now as lawyers, we tend to identify those that we don’t connect with, that won’t make eye contact with us, that look away with us, that sit there with their arms crossed like this and look away. And we become afraid of that juror for the rest of the voir dire. And you’ve just made a huge mistake.
Make eye contact with them, identify those that are for you immediately, and I say that’s just superficial, but the ones you connect with that you’re going to feel comfortable making eye contact with. And you need to do that right away before you open your mouth before you say a thing.
And when you do that, when you break the ice in that first 30 to 45 seconds of voir dire, you will be able to make eye contact, instead of staring at their forehead or looking over the top of their head or pretending they don’t have any clothes on or staring at their chin or whatever you do to address stage fright in front of a jury. This is critical. It’s important. You got to connect. You can’t pretend to connect. Can’t artificially connect. You have to actually connect, and that requires eye contact.
So I hope this has been a little bit useful to you. I will continue on my series of civil voir dire videos. If you want more information, feel free to visit trial.win or subscribe to the Facebook and the YouTube channel provided below. This has been trial attorney Ken Adair. If you are looking for co-counsel services or an experienced jury consultant, visit trial.win.