Most of us at some point have received in the mail an official looking envelope from the local city, state or federal Clerk of Court, and upon opening it, discovered it was a summons for jury duty. While many of us have been summoned for jury duty, very few of us, I’m sure, have actually served on a jury. I now can be counted as one of the few.
To my surprise, I spent 5 days as a juror in early October in state District Court. Why was I surprised? Most people think of me as a friendly, likable guy, with no particular biases or extreme viewpoints. These would add up to, I suppose, the attributes that both the plaintiff and the defendant and their respective counsel were looking for as a juror to decide their case. So, again, why the surprise? Well, I was of the mindset that because I am a practicing attorney, there would be no way that the parties would want me to serve on their jury. I’d show up for jury selection that first day at 8:30 a.m. and be back to the office in short order––certainly no later than noon, right? Wrong! At 4:30 p.m. that afternoon the jury selection process concluded and I found myself, you got it, on the jury.
I immediately tensed up and started thinking about my schedule, the client meetings that needed to be canceled, and trying to figure out how to get my work done. I had a bad attitude that I carried into the first full day of trial the next morning. But then I got to know the other jurors who were serving with me. They too had busy schedules and responsibilities. It wasn’t just me. I wasn’t any more special or inconvenienced than anyone else there.
Once I realized this and focused my mind on the task at hand – the trial – my attitude changed, and much for the better. I enjoyed my experience and, when it was all said and done, was grateful for the opportunity to perform my civic duty. After all, I’d want others to do the same for me.
There are two big takeaways that I’ll long remember from my jury experience. The first is just how much I enjoyed getting to know my fellow jurors, laughing and joking during breaks and over lunch, even if it were only for a short period of time. The second is, as an attorney, gaining a whole new and invaluable perspective on the jury trial process – – from the viewpoint of a juror. I went into this matter thinking it an inconvenience and harmful to me and my law practice to spend my valuable time on a jury. I came out of it being a better lawyer, I hope, from the insights I have gained. For that I am thankful.