Jury Selection: Simple Rule 5: MacCarthy’s Bar Rule

Okay, those of you who identify themselves as “attorneys” and “Esquires”, and anyone else who likes people to know that he has a law degree and is therefore superior: listen up. This one is for you.

The fifth Simple Rule for Better Jury Selection is blatantly stolen from and therefore named in honor of Chicago federal public defender Terry MacCarthy, who likes to say, “Talk in a courtroom like you would talk in a barroom.”

The MacCarthy’s Bar Rule:

Talk in jury selection like you would talk in a barroom.

This rule is in part a matter of word choice: don’t use lawyerly words. If you might have to define a word for the jury, find some substitute that you won’t have to define. For example, this process that we’re studying is not “voir dire” but “jury selection”. “Credibility” becomes “believability”. The “jury charge” becomes “the judge’s written instructions to you at the end of the case”. And so forth.

It is also in part a matter of tone: don’t condescend. You may think you’re better than some of those 60 people, but you’re not. More importantly, if it seems to those 60 people you’re talking to that you think you’re better than any of them, they’re going to punish you for it. But don’t grovel, either. Nobody likes a groveler.

We can talk about word choice and tone, but it’s really about status. Jury duty is America’s great leveler. You can play higher status than your jurors, talking down to them. They might nod, smile, and humor you, but they’ll dislike you, and when they get out of your control (that is, back in the jury room) they’re going to show you who is in fact boss. To your client’s chagrin.

Or you can follow MacCarthy’s Bar Rule, treating the jurors like equals whom you need to like and understand you. They won’t bow and scrape, but they will understand you more, like you more, and communicate with you better.

Talk in jury selection like you would talk in a barroom.

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0 responses to “Jury Selection: Simple Rule 5: MacCarthy’s Bar Rule”

  1. I’m a fan of talking in plain English to a jury. Communication is key. Lawyers who use big words when picking a jury are idiots.

    It makes them more comfortable. People tend to find for who they like, if they can. Talking like you are in a bar (minus the curse words of course) is where it’s at.


  2. The key to attention is inducing surprise and curiosity. They expect “Lawyer Man!” to lay down a numbing barrage of legalese. They expect you to be an expensive suit, good haircut and exuding haughty grandiosity. Be the guy on the stool next to them at Barney’s Sports Bar. Violate their expectiations. Surprise them and they will pay attention. Speak plainly and they will be curious. Make small self disclosures and they will begin to trust and do the same. Mostly. Gain a modicum of rapport. You are going to need it.

  3. Does that mean I can’t use the word “bifurcated?” Drat!

    I find it a bit ironic that the previous poster ruined his viable point by using the word “modicum” in the second to last sentence.

    Mike Trent
    Attorney at Law

  4. The Big Three- No not Ford,GM and Chrysler…Sincerity-Credibility & Likeablity are keys to being authentic and respected and this quite possibly is the foundation for Mark’s rules. Let’s pin this down!

    What does sincerity look like?
    How do you sound when you are sincere?
    How do you behave when you are sincere?
    What types of words do you use when you are sincere?
    What is the emotional quality of sincere communication?

    Here are some anchors to help you define sincerity.
    > Honesty in word and actions.
    > One who means what they say is a sincere person.
    > Consistency between words, actions and values.
    > Speaking truly about one’s feelings, thoughts, hopes and disappointments.
    > Using your own language, style and form to express yourself.


    What does credibility look like?
    How do credible people sound?
    How do you behave when you are being credible?
    What types of words do you use when you are credible?
    What is the emotional quality of credible communication?

    Here are some anchors to help you define credibility.

    > You are believable as a source of information.
    > Credibility emerges from and enhances trustworthiness.
    > Expertise enhances credibility.
    > Exaggeration and jargon detracts from trustworthiness, expertise and credibility.
    > Credibility is the quality or power of inspiring belief.
    > Credibility is influenced by whether you are perceived as being honest.


    What does likeability look like?
    How do likeable people sound?
    How do you behave when you want people to like you?
    What types of words do you use to be likeable?
    What is the emotional quality of likeability?

    Here are some anchors to help you define likeability.

    > Likeable people are civil to others.
    > Likeable behavior includes being real (sincere & credible).
    > Empathy is essential to likeability.
    > Likeable people are friendly.
    > Manage your appearance-understated, neat, and mainstream.
    > Project modesty and no matter how smart you may be build from humility.
    > Display a sense of entitlement and people won’t people wont like you.
    > Perceived similarity increases likeability

    Sincerity, likeability and credibility begin with first impressions. This means maintaining an attractive, neutral appearance, speaking appropriately, and being unfailingly honest and courteous.

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