Millennial Jurors: Who Are They and How Do We Best Communicate with Them

Imagine a case where an employee is terminated from a job after 30 years of employment.  The company claims he was let go because of downsizing; the plaintiff claims he was let go because he no longer fit the company image.  How might jurors of different generations view this case?  By and large, members of the Traditionalist generation (those born between 1925 and 1945) are dedicated and loyal employees.  Contrarily, Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) tend to “job hop” throughout their careers, searching for stimulating work environments and a sense that they are making a difference.  In the case described above, members of the Traditionalist generation would likely be critical of the company for terminating a long-time employee.  In contrast, Millennials tend to view jobs as temporary stepping stones and may not view employment termination with the same trepidation that an older juror might.  Nor would they be as empathetic to the older worker’s sense of loss.  Even in the current economy, Millenials are more likely to view unemployment optimistically as a time to pursue hobbies or studies – especially since they typically do not have the same financial baggage of mortgages and families as members of the older generations.

Researchers have studied certain generations and the attributes of their members in order to tailor products and services to their needs.  These findings also can be applied to the field of jury research.  A person’s attitudes and experiences tend to be strong predictors of what type of juror they will be.  Therefore, the generation a juror belongs to could affect the way he or she views the world, as members of the same generation are likely to share some core beliefs and values.  For example, Millennial jurors have lived through the AIDS crisis, enforcement of seatbelt laws and no smoking campaigns.  Always having been protected via such initiatives, as well as having “helicopters parents” who hover over their children and are very involved in their lives, members of this generation tend to feel they are important and special.

Who are Millennials?

There are over 82 million members of the Millennial generation, a number that challenges that of the largest group, the Baby Boomers (born 1946 -1964).  Millennials are populating our jury pools more and more, so it is vital that we consider the mindset they bring to their role as jurors.  Research indicates that Millennials:

  • Do not see the value of “paying their dues” when securing a job.  Instead, they tend to hold entitlement attitudes.  For instance, they expect to lateral into a job;
  • Will sacrifice pay and title, as long as they are “making a difference” in their jobs;
  • Are team-oriented and like to work in groups rather than independently;
  • Appreciate structure and step-by-step instructions based on their highly structured childhoods of play dates, sports, activities, school, etc.;
  • Value community service;
  • Value a work-life balance;
  • Are effective at multi-tasking, particularly with internet and mobile technology;
  • Are impatient – Millennials enjoy a networked world with information at their fingertips 24/7;
  • Place high value on education – they seek knowledge, but expect it to be presented as an appealing multimedia experience;
  • Value sharing intellectual property differently than other generations, believing it should be freely disseminated (e.g., Napster, Facebook, YouTube); and
  • Are the most racially diverse – in 2007, about 39% of the Millennials were members of ethnic minorities, but they are less likely to have experienced explicit racial discrimination as previous generations have.  For the younger generation, racial and gender bias has not disappeared, but it has taken a different form than in the past (e.g., implicit bias, shades of skin color within the same racial groups, etc.).

Communicating with Millennials

Perhaps the most notable experience shared by Millennials is growing up in the digital/multi-media age.  They grew up with ready access to modern communication technology (e.g., Internet, text messaging, and Smartphones).  The following tips are tailored to members of the Millennial generation.  That is not to say that they exclude members of other generations; rather, they are especially useful in reaching Millennial jurors given their unique characteristics.

»Think Like a Teacher.  Because Millennials value education and knowledge, conducting a “101” on the more complex facets of your case is usually recommended.  The more you can teach jurors about the issue, the more they will understand, and the more empowered they will feel to make a decision.  It is especially important for Millennial jurors to believe that they have come to a conclusion on their own versus being told what to do or think.  Giving them the tools to become “experts in the case” follows a style of learning and decision-making familiar to them.

»Tackle Technology.  Research tells us that a well-executed demonstrative display of evidence typically has more of an impact on a jury than a simple oral description of it. Millennial jurors especially appreciate a presentation that integrates technology because it caters to their need for multisensory input and entertains them in a way to which they have grown accustomed.  We are in an era where the majority of the jurors expect technology, so counsel should no longer be worried about looking too slick.  In fact, younger jurors can easily become bored and frustrated with exhibits on an ELMO.  Telling your story visually will help to help fill in the gaps of the two competing stories being told at trial and will be appreciated by jurors.  This also will allow jurors to see the evidence the way you want them to see it.  Below are a few tips for presenting your case visually to Millennial jurors.  However, choose your technology carefully depending who is on your jury panel as members of the Traditionalist generation are “wowed” by the use of technology, whereas Generation X (1965-1981) and Millennial jurors expect it.

    • When in doubt, use a visual that communicates your themes/main points.  When designing visuals for trial, include more pictures, videos, analogies, etc.  The presentation should be more than just plain text and oratory.  Visual aids can help jurors identify elements that reinforce your key themes, increasing the likelihood that they will understand your message.
    • Checklist graphics.  Provide structure by creating clear checklists.  For example, in a product liability case, you could make a scorecard of the actions the defendant should have taken in this case.  Then, you can check all of the actions that were taken to show the jury how responsible the defendant was when creating the product.  Checklists aid jurors’ organizational processing of information presented to them.
    • Flash animation.  This tactic gives a still PowerPoint more interest and by incorporating multimedia.  For example, jurors are able to see the timeline move as the attorney discusses a certain date and applicable graphics “pop up” from the PowerPoint slide.  This interactivity further involves jurors and greatly increases the imprint value of these exhibits.
    • Incorporate video and demonstratives in opening statements (if allowed).  An opening statement should appeal to a juror’s visual and auditory senses.  Use pictures, graphs, maps and videos to support your initial presentation.  This strategy will also help get the jury interested in your case as early as possible.
    • Allow your experts to use graphics/demonstratives that aid in learning.  The use of visual aids at trial should extend beyond attorney presenters.  A graphics team can work with your experts to directly interpret their data and produce exhibits that showcase their findings and opinions.  These exhibits also turn your expert into a teacher – getting him or her out of the witness chair is always a good strategy.

»Narrow Your Themes.  Due to the notoriously short attention span of Millennials – and of many jurors of all generations – narrowing your key themes is a must.  Having too many themes makes it difficult for any to stand out and robs them of their persuasive power.  Additionally, you will likely need to repeat your themes multiple times for them to stick with these jurors.  Mock trial research can help you to determine what themes most strongly resonate with jurors and will allow you to carefully choose which themes will most likely create your desired outcome.

»Jury Selection.  A juror’s identity as a Millennial should not automatically disqualify him or her.  Because Millennial jurors have a team-oriented focus, they tend to be consensus builders and do not like conflict.  They could be the voice in the jury room that mediates between sides.  Given your case, this may be a quality worth having rather than striking.

Conclusion

Each generation has different attitudes, expectations and motivational sensibilities.  Learning about the four generations – Traditionalist, Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials – and what distinguishes each is an important consideration at trial.  The Millennials now comprise over one-third of the jurors who show up for jury duty.  Having a better understanding of this population can assist counsel to develop better themes and graphics, and overall trial strategies.

JessicaJohn-Wilinski_KMJ8584_RoundBy: Jessica Baer, M.A., Consultant and John Wilinski, M.A., Consultant