Trial attorneys have traditionally relied on juror demographic tendency studies and statistics, and volumes of research and articles have been devoted to the considerations for attorneys to bear in mind in presenting cases to members of the Silent and Baby Boom generations as well as Generation X. Members of Generation Y, also called Millennials, now make up a significant subset of today’s jury pools, and their numbers in juries will continue to grow in the years to come. Litigators preparing their courtroom presentations would be well advised to carefully study and consider the distinctive nuances and shared life experiences of this new generation of jurors.
While all jurors should be assessed primarily on their individual mindset and background, attorneys are able to gain a fuller and richer understanding for how a juror will respond to a case and its presentation by also taking generational analysis into account.
Many of the traits and tendencies of prior generations are not shared by today’s Millennials. The Baby Boomers, who were born from 1946 through the mid-1960s, have been predominantly defined by their belief in the American dream of a strong work ethic leading to economic and social ascension. As such, trial attorneys have found that they generally respond very positively to long and highly detailed presentations that demonstrate a deep exploration of the facts in order to reach informed conclusions.
For the members of Generation X, whose birth years range from the mid-1960s to about 1980, the increased financial insecurity during their lifetimes has made them more skeptical, adaptable and independent than the Boomers. They are also more likely to distrust authority, both in the form of government and large corporations, and are more highly educated. Litigators have tended to rely on presenting information to them in a manner that is very clear, with an emphasis on testing the information for accuracy and validity by citing multiple sources.
Millennials, who were born from the early 1980s to 2000, now number approximately 77 million, making up about one-fourth of the U.S. population (Nielsen). They are extremely diverse, with 43 percent nonwhite (the largest share of any generation) according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey and report on Millennials, and about one-fourth speak a language other than English at home (U.S. Census Bureau).
Their lives have been shaped by technology to a much greater extent than prior generations. The internet has been ubiquitous for most of their lives, and they are also the best-educated group in U.S. history with more than one-third of those from age 26 to 33 having earned at least a four-year college degree (Pew Research Center).
The landmark Pew Research Center study also found that they are significantly less connected with traditional institutions, such as political parties, religious institutions and marriage, and they are more opinionated and have more progressive and inclusive social views than prior generations. Although they are less well-off financially than the previous two generations at the same age, 49 percent say the country’s best years are still ahead. They also tend to break away from the traditional model of the American dream that values the pursuit of greater income and professional accomplishments over personal time and quality of life. They are more willing to sacrifice greater financial rewards for a more personally fulfilling and joyful life, which has traditionally been considered a European point of view rather than an American one.
Given these substantial attitude shifts from previous generations, attorneys are finding that Millennial jurors often require a different approach. During voir dire, many trial consultants have suggested adopting a conversational mode with today’s younger jurors to encourage dialogue and gain an understanding for their opinions and attitudes. They note that due to the inherent skepticism and distrust of others that are among the trademarks of the younger generation, litigators must gain their trust by being as open, transparent and authentic as possible.
Technology and Tempo
One of the clearest takeaways for attorneys based on Gen Y’s generation-spanning attributes is their high level of comfort with sophisticated graphics and interactive multimedia presentations. They have logged so much time and attention on computers and the internet during their lifetimes that they are likely to readily accept and even expect the use of polished modern graphics. For complicated information, they will likely perceive graphic aids with interactive elements that are manipulated by the presenting attorney to be effective tools used by experienced lawyers to enable jurors to comprehend and recollect information.
In addition, trial attorneys can expect to be able to succeed with many of these jurors by moving quickly through relatively complicated information, with the help of technology, rather than painstakingly going over every facet in boring detail. Millennials are accustomed to finding and reviewing information very quickly, so it is wise to not get too deep into the weeds and remain focused on the most pertinent information to the larger narrative that is being conveyed. By presenting a case efficiently and expeditiously, attorneys will typically be able to avoid seeing younger jurors lose their interest and patience.
In analyzing the traits and tendencies of this new generation of Americans, many have focused on their upbringing as children, noting that they have been more pampered and supervised by their parents than previous generations. As a result, attorneys are finding that themes of mutual respect and cooperation, with adherence to well-defined rules as well as consequences for breaking them, tend to resonate with the members of Generation Y.
Given these values and the importance that Millennials place on quality of life, personal injury attorneys are finding that the diminished physical and mental capacities of victims to enjoy their lives to the fullest carry a great deal of significance with this new generation of jurors. Because they are cynical of corporate America and place a great deal of value on safety and responsibility, these jurors may be inclined toward holding those responsible for harms accountable.
Blanket assumptions about jurors based on demographic and generational tendencies are never a recipe for success in the courtroom. However, by gaining a fuller understanding for the shared experiences and perspectives of today’s younger jurors, trial attorneys may become more fully equipped and prepared to determine the very best possible approaches to their trial presentations for these jurors.