When lawyers try to communicate with jurors, they risk condescending to them. It's easy to do. Just think of the way lawyers are always setting up a dichotomy between "lawyers" and "people who aren't lawyers." It's exactly what I'm doing in this post. If a prospective juror were to read it, I'd expect him to respond, "How condescending!"
If you don't understand why that would be a proper response, let me tell you a story. I was reminded what it felt like to be a "person who isn't a lawyer" just the other day. I was cleaning up some old notebooks from the basement. I found one that I'd filled up in July 1987. It happened to be the summer before law school and I was reading Karl Llewellyn's Bramble Bush. On a page titled "Words I've Looked Up," I'd written out long definitions to terms like "tort," "strict liability," "negligence," and "demurrer."
When I reread this page the other day, I was a little shocked. There was a time I didn't know what a tort was? Not only that, but it wasn't that long ago. It was so recently, in fact, that I remember lots of details about that summer. Most pertinent to this post, I remember what it felt like to be just a regular person--one of those "people who's not a lawyer."
To put it another way, I remember what it was like to be a typical juror. Here's the key: I wasn't stupid. Despite my lack of legal education, I happened to be damn smart--smarter that I am today, I'm pretty sure. My only failing was that I hadn't yet been indoctrinated into that cozy group of professionals who knew the meaning of words like tort, strict liability, negligence, and demurrer, and who sometimes looked down at those who didn't.
I think you get the point. Try it yourself. By thinking back to a time before law school, you too might be able to get in touch with your inner regular person. I'm certain you'll find that he was smart, articulate, and intellectually engaged. He probably had a wealth of personal experience. If a snotty lawyer had stood up in front of him and said that he was going to "attempt to keep things simple" so that "even a non-lawyer could understand"--well, your inner regular person probably would have been a tad offended. He'd probably have asked the lawyer to get the hell off his pedestal and start acting like a regular person.
And he would have been right. The next time you're talking to a jury, remember that.