First Impression

In What the Dog Saw Malcolm Gladwell discusses first impressions. Mr. Gladwell says we form our first impression within seconds (two seconds to be exact). He points out studies show not much difference between a first impression based on seconds and an impression based on prolonged exposure.

On reflection this makes sense in our age of sound bites and rapid fire media coverage. This also makes sense when we look at ourselves from an evolutionary standpoint. Our prehistoric ancestors had to immediately react on first impression to survive.

Applying the reality of first impression to a jury trial means our jurors form an impression of us before we open our mouths. According to Mr. Gladwell people like and trust people who appear confident and smile. To fail to make immediate eye contact and smile when jurors enter the courtroom is to miss the first first impression opportunity.

Jury consultants David Ball and Harry Plotkin teach the importance of jury selection and opening statement in establishing the case in the minds of the jurors. Jury selection is the first time we have a dialog with our jurors. The great Clarence Darrow is reported to have whispered to his second chair after jury selection “the trial is over.” He was correct.

Opening statement is the first time we introduce the case to our jurors. Both Mr. Ball and Mr. Plotkin teach to begin dispassionately with the conduct of defendant. Then introduce plaintiff in a factual way without trying to sell the case. The aura is that of an accurate historian where the facts call for justice in favor of injured plaintiff. This leaves a first impression of objectivity. When we do this with a pleasant demeanor coupled and an aura of acceptance we make a favorable first impression.

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