Hamlin, Sonya. Now What Makes Juries Listen. Eagan, MN: Thomson West, 2008, hardcover, 600p, $169.
Now What Makes Juries Listen[i] begins by describing the three major societal changes that have had the most effect on the practice of law, the legal system, and jury behavior. These changes are the advances in technology, the multigenerational make-up of our society, and the multicultural diversity of our society. Hamlin addresses these changes in the first three chapters of her book and then offers many techniques to combat these changes so that an attorney can clearly present his case to the jury from voir dire to closing argument.
In the first chapter, Hamlin lays out the technological advances that have occurred in the 21st century and how these changes have changed the manner in which attorneys must present their cases so as to engage today’s jurors. In the second chapter, Hamlin discusses the generational make-up of today’s society and the different characteristics of each generation. She also describes how the characteristics of each generation play a role in the way people communicate, process information, and make decisions. In chapter three, Hamlin discusses the multicultural make-up of today’s society and how each ethnic group’s cultural beliefs influence the decisions its members make. In each chapter, the author provides a summary of the issues she discusses, why they are important, and how they influence the ways attorneys work. In addition, there is a “three-chapter wrap-up” and a check-list of issues and problems discussed at the end of chapter three.
In chapter four, Hamlin discusses techniques to improve communication skills and the attorney’s image in the eyes of the jury. She discusses basic communication skills, such as techniques used to grab the audience’s attention, ways to keep the audience engaged, how to develop clear presentations, how to be believable, and how to be persuasive. This is followed by a detailed discussion of how attorneys should dress to portray the right image to the jury.
Hamlin argues in chapter five that visual presentations are needed in the courtroom today to keep jurors interested, to improve their understanding of the case, and to enhance the jury’s memory. The author then provides suggestions on how to create clear visual messages that are persuasive and make it easier for the jury to remember the evidence presented during the trial.
Starting with voir dire in chapter six and ending with closing arguments in the book’s final chapter (chapter 13), Hamlin moves through the trial process, providing the reader with techniques to prepare for every aspect of the trial, as well as providing new techniques to effectively present their cases in ways that combat the societal changes attorneys face today. Hamlin provides a detailed “how to” guide for conducting an effective voir dire and for making memorable opening statements and closing arguments. She provides the reader with techniques for developing effective direct examinations. She provides suggestions for nonverbal communication skills that enhance an attorney’s cross examination. She discusses the issues that arise when developing and conducting effective direct and cross examinations of expert witnesses. She also provides suggestions for how to develop visual presentations of the expert’s testimony so as to leave the jury with a lasting impression of the expert’s opinion.
There have been many changes in today’s society that have affected the practice of law and the manner in which attorneys present their cases to the jury. Likewise, the same societal changes have affected the way today’s juries process information and make their decisions. Hamlin felt compelled to write Now What Makes Juries Listen to alert the legal profession to these changes and to provide attorneys with new options and techniques to reach the jury most effectively. This has resulted in an excellent resource for all types of law libraries. It can be utilized by law students to introduce them to the basics of communicating with a jury, while making them aware of the make-up of today’s jury pool. Furthermore, this book is an excellent resource for young associates who need a “refresher” on trial techniques and effective communication skills. Finally, this book will revitalize the litigation skills of a seasoned attorney, providing new techniques that will improve his communication skills and his relationship with the jury.
Reviewed by Christine I. Hepler, associate director of the University of Maine School of Law Garbrecht Law Library.
[i] This book was written to update Hamlin’s two previous publications: What Makes Juries, published by Harcourt Brace Javanovich Publishers, New York, NY, 1985, and What Makes Juries Listen Today, published by Glasser Legal Works, Little Falls, NJ, 1998.