Yes, in most states in the US, a lawyer can serve on a jury.
However, they rarely get selected to serve on the jury.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Can a Lawyer Serve on a Jury? (Explained)
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Times Have Changed
Each state has its own laws and rules about jury service.
In the past, some states have excluded licensed attorneys and other members of the legal field from service, or allowed them to claim an “exemption” from service if they received a notice calling them to serve.
In current times, most of these exclusions/exemptions have been removed, and lawyers are free to serve on juries.
Why Don’t Lawyers Serve On Juries?
There are many reasons why lawyers are not selected to serve.
First, their area of practice can make them sometimes more sympathetic to one side or the other.
For example, a criminal defense attorney might be naturally more critical of the police, while a prosecutor might be naturally more sympathetic to the law enforcement witnesses.
Lawyers who practice in the area of law that the trial is about often know as much about the law and procedure as the trial lawyers handling the case, and may not be able to avoid relying on their personal knowledge of the law as they make their own decisions.
In the end, every jury must do their best to be impartial and avoid favoring one side or the other, and a lawyer’s background and experience can make this extremely difficult, even with the lawyer’s best efforts.
Second, lawyers act like shepherds in a jury.
Jurors learn about each other through jury selection, and a potential juror’s career/profession is usually a big part of voir dire.
The other jurors learn that there is a lawyer on the panel, and will often defer to that lawyer’s opinions and view of the factual presentation.
If the lawyer favors one side in the trial, his conclusions are very persuasive to the other members of the jury.
This is great for the side that the lawyer sides with, but not so great for the other side.
The risk of the lawyer acting as a ‘shepherd’ is why most trial lawyers will strike an attorney from the panel quickly to give their clients the best chance of success on the facts.
Third, having a lawyer on the panel can make the lawyers presenting uncomfortable and distracting.
If the lawyer juror practices in the same area of law, the presenting attorney knows him/her, and knows that the juror lawyer is critiquing the entire presentation or performance.
The juror lawyer might even know more about the law.
To avoid the distraction of performing to a known audience, lawyers will strike other lawyers from the panel.
Fourth, lawyers often know each other, sometimes well.
When a jury is first called, each juror is asked to state whether or not they know any of the lawyers or parties, and to elaborate on the extent of the relationship.
People who are personal friends of the parties or lawyers are often excused by the judge to avoid any risk that the empaneled jury is not equally fair to both sides, even if the friendly juror says he can be fair and impartial.
Lawyers Who Do Serve
Despite all this, lawyers do serve on juries.
In most cases, they work in areas of law that are far from the law of the case, or trial practice in general.
Transactional attorneys who handle patents, trusts, wills, and business formational are good examples of attorneys who might make the eventual final jury panel.
Trial attorneys who handle criminal trials, family law trials, and high stakes civil cases would probably not end up serving.
In the end, just about every attorney could benefit from experiencing a trial from the point of view of a juror, as that could used for the benefit of the lawyer’s future clients.
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