5 Ways Paralegals Assist with the Voir Dire Process
- Questionnaire Creation
- Trait Identification
- Ticks and Tells
- Posture and Appearance
- Open-ended Questions
Paralegals can help attorneys during many phases in a court case, including voir dire. This is the process that happens before the trial begins. It gives attorneys the chance to ask prospective jurors about their backgrounds and other factors that can determine if they have any preconceived notions or ideas that will sway them to one side or the other. Attorneys will find it helpful to use paralegals or legal assistants in a few different ways during this process.
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How Legal Assistants Can Help with Juror Selection
1. Questionnaire Creation
One way paralegals can help is with the creation of the questionnaire. All jurors will receive this questionnaire and have time to fill it out. They need to respond to questions that give some demographic information to both the counsel and defense. Paralegals can help create the questionnaire and make sure that it includes all the right questions and that it doesn’t leave anything out.
2. Trait Identification
An important part of the voir dire process is when attorneys go over the questionnaire to identify the traits that each juror has. Paralegals can create files that give attorneys a rundown of each juror that doesn’t require that they go over the individual questionnaires. They can make note of the races found in the potential juror pool and identify those who belong to different age ranges. Paralegals can identify any other characteristics or traits or note such as what they do for a living and how much they make or their sex.
3. Ticks and Tells
Gamblers quickly learn how to look for ticks and tells that other players have. This helps them spot who has a winning hand that might beat them and when a player is bluffing. Attorneys can use their paralegals to look for ticks and tells that they might miss. During jury selection, both sides of the courtroom have the chance to ask questions, which they use to weed out who will sit on the jury. Attorneys may miss out on certain tells such as someone who looks away when asked a question or someone who flinches when asked about a subject. Paralegals can keep an eye out for those who shouldn’t sit on the jury when the attorney is distracted.
4. Posture and Appearance
Paralegals can also examine prospective jurors in terms of their posture and appearance. Though attorneys have the final say on who they want and don’t want in the jury pool, paralegals can help them see things they might otherwise miss. During the selection process, a paralegal can write down the name of each person and make notes about what they look like and what they wore. When the attorney prepares for the trial, he or she can go over those notes to remember each juror and think about the best way to approach them.
5. Open-Ended Questions
Another way a paralegal helps during voir dire is when the attorney wants to ask open-ended questions. Designed to elicit more than just a yes or no response, they can get jurors talking and help the attorney learn things they would usually miss. Instead of asking if someone approves of a specific sentence, they can ask what they think is an appropriate sentence for the crime. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegals are responsible for investigating the facts of a case. Their knowledge can help them come up with the right questions to ask.
Paralegals are legal assistants who help attorneys prepare for upcoming cases and with trials in the courtroom. Some of the ways that paralegals can help during voir dire include creating questionnaires and watching for any tells that prospective jurors have.