Jury Duty: Preparing and Surviving

You like getting the traditional snail mail. But not the bills from the phone or utility company or letters from the IRS. The one thing that you dread the most is a summons to be on jury duty.

The Preparation

The knowledge you gained from a couple of paralegal degrees while working for a law firm in Illinois got you out of the first invitation. However, you’re invited again. Calm down and take note of the following insights:

  1. Read. Open the envelope and read what’s written in the letter. You need to take note of the date when you have to make your appearance. While nothing will technically happen if you fail to appear, expect that you will be called again. So you might as well appear during the first invitation.
  2. The questionnaire. You need to answer the survey sent to you. Some of the questions might already be answered because of your voter registration record or other similar documents. It will also include specific questions, such as “Have you been involved in a lawsuit before” and “Have you been involved in a crime as a victim or perpetrator?” This is in preparation for the process called “voir dire,” which is essentially the process for the judge and counsel to examine the potential jurors.
  3. Inform the office. You need to inform your office about your impending jury duty. Your office cannot prevent you from taking on this responsibility. Unless your company has a particular policy regarding this matter, expect not to be paid during the time you are away from work. You need to provide your employer with a copy of the summons.
  4. Attire. Formal suits are not a requirement. Wear something that’s business casual, and be prepared for a cold courtroom. A shawl, sweater, or jacket should come in handy.

lawyer signing documents

Getting Through It

The preparation is half of your ordeal. You need to be mentally and physically ready to survive the duration of the trial. Here are a few things to take note of:

  1. Get to know the surroundings. You need to familiarize yourself with your surroundings, the building in particular. Judges give out instructions about not discussing anything outside of the jury chamber. Still, you might find yourself in a hallway or toilet where you accidentally hear the discussions of lawyers and other parties to the trial. Look for nooks or bathrooms where you can find some quiet time.
  2. Listen and take notes. You can’t remember everything. You need to be convincing with your position in the jury chamber. You can do that if you take notes and rely on them when you make your arguments. Assign each witness a sketched an image, a nickname, and the most significant points you can recall about their testimony.
  3. Pack your food. It can get crowded at nearby restaurants or cafeteria. Bringing a snack and even a full meal eliminates the stress of finding a place to sit at a full restaurant.

Bring your iPad, books, and other things that can serve as your entertainment. This will help you relax and recharge your mind. Lastly, be hopeful even if the trial drags on. It’s bound to end somehow.

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