Women - and men, too - can win with 'smart aggression'

Galina Davidoff
BridgeTower Media Newswires

Never before had I heard jurors using a lawyer’s credibility as evidence.

But by the end of the “lady lawyer” presentation in our jury research, surrogate jurors concluded that if the “lady lawyer” said it, it must be true.

That was quite a feat by a lovely, young attorney facing a tough, working-class jury. As it happened, we were actually working for the other side, and this research taught us a great deal about the case, which we later won at trial.

It also taught the clients what an amazing trial lawyer they had in their second chair. The first chair was proud as punch, as he had mentored the young woman from the beginning of her career.

I later saw her in court in a different case defending the same client from five plaintiffs at once. Their cases fizzled out one after another.

An international corporation involved in multi-district litigation decided to test its lead trial attorneys in a jury research project. Three attorneys participated: one of national fame, one of regional fame and a woman litigator of no fame. Surrogate jurors rated the attorneys, and while they liked everyone, the woman got the highest ratings and persuaded the largest number of jurors. She made extremely complex matters sound so simple and interesting that jurors felt lucky to be there.

These are just two examples of outstanding presentations by female attorneys I have witnessed over the years. Such inspiring performances make you wonder why there aren’t more women in the role of lead trial counsel. It seems like a natural fit for women, given jurors’ predispositions.

Jurors believe that women are just as intelligent, articulate and persistent as men. They grew up with female teachers, principals, mothers who advocated for them, journalists and TV lawyers.
In talking to jurors (in jury research and in states where it is allowed), I do not hear them pick on women lawyers more than they pick on male lawyers.

Occupation, class trump gender

Jurors mistrust attorneys of both genders equally at the start but come to respect them if they do a good job.

Regardless of your gender, to jurors you are first and foremost a lawyer: someone with higher education and higher pay than most jurors, with training in persuasion (or spin) and willingness to represent “bad guys.”