The title of this post was sort of a trick. I'm not really advocating the use of the word "folks" as a means of connecting with a jury. Am I in the minority? I think so. I see it all the time. Put a lawyer in front of a jury and it's only seconds before he'll start using the word "folks," imagining, I guess, that he's keeping things simple and talking in plain words that even the jurors can understand.
Voir dire: "How many of you folks think that . . ."
Direct examination: "Doctor, can you tell these folks in the jury about . . ."
Closing argument: "Before I begin, I want to thank you folks for . . ."
To me, it comes off as false and condescending, as do some related practices like intentionally dressing in a sloppy manner or trying to relate every important point to something about baseball.
Are lawyers really so different from everyone else that they must engage in such distortions of their personalities in order to "connect" with a jury?
I don't think so. The oldest advice continues to be the best advice: be yourself. If you're someone who naturally uses the word folks or is incredibly enthusiastic about sports metaphors or who dresses in scuffed shoes and stained ties, then have at it. But if you don't, your next trial probably isn't a good time to start. Act as you normally do. Unless you're a true monster of pomposity, being seen as condescending is far worse than being recognized as the person you genuinely are.