Xtra Normal is sweeping the internet, and law students were among its victims. What kind of impact do videos such as these have on jurors?
By now, most of us have seen the ubiquitous xtra normal videos that have been sweeping the internet. If you are anything like me, you receive one in your inbox regularly. Each one is a parody of something new. People who buy expensive cars? Yep, they are covered. What about people who insist upon buying iPhones over other smartphones? Yep, iPhone owners have fallen victim to xtra normal in a particularly brutal video. What about attorneys? They are often an easy target. Well, it should come as no surprise that there is a video poking fun of people who want to go to law school. What's more, this is an extremely popular video with thousands of views. In a society where communications are so rapid and where the internet can create a celebrity in days (e.g., think "Golden Voice), what kind of impact do videos such as these have on juror perceptions of attorneys? It is my observation that videos such as the one above simply support long standing stereotypes of attorneys. In graduate school, I conducted a research study that looked at attorney voir dire styles and their impact on juror verdicts. I found that jurors liked attorneys who were somewhat ingratiating. This helped build rapport and held juror interest during the voir dire process. However, attorneys who were very ingratiating seemed to "flick a switch" with the jurors that resulted in jurors being more suspicious of the highly ingratiating attorney. The jurors viewed the highly ingratiating attorney as being "fake" and manipulative, and this appeared to prime negative stereotypes of attorneys. So, most jurors were willing to forgive stereotypes when they believed the attorney was being personable and trying to be relatable. However, when jurors believed the attorney was not being genuine, they were more apt to assign negative lawyer stereotypes to that lawyer. Therefore, by being your genuinely personable self, you can build trust with the jury and overcome some of these pervasive stereotypes with most jurors. You can even use videos such as the one above to your favor by referring to them during voir dire. "Many of us have seen those xtra normal videos with people talking in monotonous voices, and to my surprise, there was one that was negative about lawyers and law students. It seems that negative lawyer stereotypes have taken to the internet! Who here tends to not look to favorably upon attorneys? I'm assuming none of you posted a video like that?" By addressing these in voir dire, you get a chance to get a chuckle out of many jurors while also screening the jury pool for those with strongly negative attitudes or experiences with attorneys. What is that saying? When life gives you lemons like the xtra normal video, why not make lemonade?