An Introduction to the Future Jury Pool
Generations are defined not only by the time period in which their members were born, but also by characteristic traits of those members. Although the boundaries vary, Millennials are typically defined as having been born between 1981 and 1996. The oldest of this generation are now 41 years old. Those in Gen Z were born between 1997 and present day. The oldest of this generation are now 25 years old.[i]
The characteristic traits of the members of a generation are often formed by the defining historical, economic, political, or technological events of that time period. For example, Millennials came of age during the explosion of the Internet, and are thus well-adapted to technology. Millennials also experienced the 9/11 attacks, likely first voted in the 2008 election, and were raised during an economic boom. Consequently, Millennials are less concerned about saving and more focused on having memorable experiences. On the other hand, members of Gen Z are natives to the Internet, as smart technology and social media have always been a part of their lives. Additionally, members of Gen Z have no memory of the 9/11 attacks, the oldest first voted in the 2020 election, and they were raised during the Great Recession. As a result, Gen Z is more budget-minded and debt-adverse.[ii]
Being raised by Baby Boomers, Millennials tend to be more idealistic in nature. They are mobile pioneers that connect and prefer brands that share their values. Common social media platform usage includes Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. However, members of Gen Z were raised by Gen X, and display more pragmatic tendencies. They are mobile natives who prefer brands that feel authentic. Gen Z members are typically on Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok. Both generations are diverse and tend to lean more progressive politically.[iii]
The Future Jury Pool as Employees
As employees, Gen Z members are more highly engaged in the workplace than Millennials, but both Gen Z and Millennials have high levels of interest/engagement in ESG (ethical, social, governance) attributes of their employer. Gen Z and Millennials have embraced post-pandemic fluctuations in work location, structure, and connection. Additionally, both groups are more likely to speak up in the workplace in general and appear to speak up earlier on in a potential issue/concern. Unsurprisingly, these generations are more open to (actively want in many cases) change in the workplace and challenging the status quo.[iv]
However, Millennials and Gen Z seem to be more suspicious and anxious in workplace investigations and performance management scenarios. For example, they seem more likely to assume larger, broad, extreme, and intentional discrimination or issues. Millennials and Gen Z have increased access to immediate information or misinformation with little to confirm which is which, this can sometimes skew their expectations or result in misunderstandings or misinterpretations of their rights under various employment laws which may immediately set a bad tone for what should otherwise be a “routine” investigation or discussion.
Looking toward the future, Millennials and Gen Z have a higher expectation of rights and protections. Unlike previous generations, all they know are some of these relatively “new” employment protections (Title VII, ADEA, PDA, ADA, and FMLA). These protections have become the floor for them, and there is an expectation of more than that in the workplace.
The Future Jury Pool as Plaintiffs
Because Millennials were raised in the expansion of the Internet and are well-versed in technology, they have always been able to find answers to their questions at the click of a button. Anecdotally, this desire to get information quickly has many lawyers feeling as though their millennial plaintiffs are doing their own research, and are more difficult to convince regarding facts. Millennial plaintiffs may think “they feel comfortable using legal jargon in their everyday lives,” but the reality is their lawyers are screaming at them, “Are you sure?” Likewise, Millennial plaintiffs viewing their protections from various civil rights acts as a baseline is a stark difference from Baby Boomer plaintiffs, who can remember a time before these civil rights protections were the norm. For example, Pew Research found that 70% of Gen Z and 64% of Millennials think government should do more to solve problems, whereas only 49% of Baby Boomers share that sentiment.[v]
In terms of discovery, 93% of Millennials own a smart phone as compared to 68% of Boomers, and 86% of Millennials use social media as compared to 59% of Boomers. This changes discovery because the possibility that discoverable information will be found in Millennials’ texts, Instagram DMs, Facebook messenger, etc. is far higher than for other generations. Counsel can no longer simply ask for emails regarding the facts in a lawsuit.[vi]
The Future Jury Pool as Jurors
Generally speaking, younger jurors are no more or less pro-plaintiff or pro-defense leaning than older generations. Younger jurors are much more cynical than older jurors, so in typical cases involving wrongdoing or irresponsible conduct, these jurors are more likely to believe and accept that companies cover up wrongdoing or drivers commonly drive distracted, for example. In this way, younger jurors can lean more pro-defense.
However, younger jurors tend to lean more pro-plaintiff in cases involving issues of equity, discrimination, or sexual harassment. This is because younger jurors are much more politically progressive than older jurors, and see these, and other, issues as causes to fight for.[vii]
While Millennials and Gen Z appear to be in stark contrast of one another, and certainly can be, the two generation groups are actually quite similar. Both are adept in the language of technology, expect and demand workplace rights and protections, and believe strongly about speaking out about today’s hot-button issues. Idealistic Millennials and pragmatic Gen Z are every lawyer’s newest employee, client, and juror, meaning that the future jury pool has already arrived.
[i] Michael Dimock, Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins, Pew Research Center (Jan. 17, 2019), https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/17/where-millennials-end-and-generation-z-begins/.
[ii] Id.; Phillip Kane and Grace Ocean, 10 Ways to Understand the Difference Between Gen-Y and Gen-Z, Inc., https://www.inc.com/phillip-kane/10-ways-to-understand-difference-between-gen-y-gen-z.html.
[iii] Jeff Desjardins, Meet Generation Z: The Newest Member to the Workforce, Visual Capitalist (Feb. 14, 2019), https://www.visualcapitalist.com/meet-generation-z-the-newest-member-to-the-workforce/.
[iv] Ed O’Boyle, 4 Things Gen Z and Millennials Expect from Their Workplace, Gallup: Workplace (March 30,2021), https://www.gallup.com/workplace/336275/things-gen-millennials-expect-workplace.aspx
[v] Kim Parker, Nikki Graf, and Ruth Igielnik, Generation Z Looks a Lot Like Millennials on Key Social and Political Issues, Pew Research Center (Jan. 17, 2019), https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2019/01/17/generation-z-looks-a-lot-like-millennials-on-key-social-and-political-issues/.
[vi] Emily A. Vogels, Millennials stand out for their technology use, but older generations also embrace digital life, Pew Research Center (Sept. 9, 2019), https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/09/us-generations-technology-use/.
[vii] Harry Plotkin, The Next Generation of Jurors, Daily Journal (Nov. 10, 2021), https://www.dailyjournal.com/mcle/1082-the-next-generation-of-jurors.