A Trial Lawyer’s Perspective on Receiving a Summons for Jury Duty


photo of attorney josh margolis, an adult caucasian male with dark hair and wearing a suit.

I recently had the privilege of receiving a summons for jury duty. I know that sounds weird as most people want to know – how to get excused from jury duty? As a trial lawyer, we attorneys are always wondering what the jury is thinking during each phase of the trial. Now was my chance to take a peek behind the curtain.

Arriving at the Courthouse

I arrived at the courthouse, as instructed in my summons for jury duty, and was led into the juror assembly room. The chief judge greeted us and explained the importance of jurors in our judicial system, and why jury duty is important. I have heard many judges give a similar speech before and after trials, but this time it felt different having it said directly to me. 

A judge’s clerk came down and 35 of us were randomly selected as a panel to a court division. On my way up to the courtroom, I ran into multiple colleagues who did a double-take, not sure what I was doing in court without a suit. I was given my assigned seat and received introductory remarks from the judge that this was a civil lawsuit involving a car accident. Then, the fun began! 

Questioning Possible Jurors

A jury case always starts with “voir dire,” a French term meaning “to speak the truth.” The process involves attorneys asking the jury panel a variety of questions to find the best jurors whose experience to serve on the jury fit the case. 

The first question asked was whether anyone knew the attorneys involved. While St. Louis is a large city, the legal community is surprisingly small, so I was not shocked that I knew the attorneys involved in the lawsuit. But, that meant I had to be the first person to raise my hand and speak to the judge who I also have cases with. Throughout the morning, there were many questions asked of the jury panel about their work, driving, frivolous lawsuits and experience with chronic pain.

It was eye-opening listening to the whispers and complaints every time an attorney objected to a question and a break needed to be called. It was clear that the majority of people who received a summons for jury duty wanted the process to move along quickly without interruption. 

I also noticed first-hand how attorneys being argumentative can turn off the entire jury panel. The lesson for my trial attorney friends is that sometimes you can win the battle while ultimately losing the war. 

A Positive Perspective

Following more questions, we took a break for lunch and upon re-entering the courtroom, I knew something happened. The parties were not present and the trial exhibits were gone. The judge gave us a brief statement that the trial was not going forward and our service was no longer needed. 

Ultimately, I do not know whether I would have been selected as a juror. But I would have really enjoyed continuing the experience. And I hope the next time you receive a summons for jury duty in the mail, you do, too! 

Josh Margolis