If you are self-employed like myself, you will feel that jury duty is one of worst things that could ever pop up at any given moment. The only hope you have to hold on to is if you are not chosen as a juror and dismissed or are picked, you can’t get call back to serve for up to 6 years (at least in the New York City, not sure if it apply to the entire state). Last week Tuesday and Wednesday I reported to the Kings County Supreme Court in downtown Brooklyn with the hope of moving quickly through the selection process, not getting chosen as a juror and returning to my regular schedule program (everyday life) no later then Wednesday evening.
That was not the outcome. Late Wednesday morning I was told that I was pick as Juror Number 11. Oh the horror! Needless to say I was totally bummed out. I had work to do. Millions of questions went through my head –
“How long will this trial be? Would my clients be sympathetic to the situation and okay with me not being available for most of the day, if at all? Are they okay will deadlines being pushed back? Are jurors allowed to go out for lunch or do I have to be stuck inside all day? Can I bring my laptop with me? Where are the outlets? Is there Wi-Fi in here?”
My business has only one employee – me. I do everything. I am every department from marketing to creative. Unlike my 9-5 counterparts when I don’t work I don’t get paid. Yes, jurors (not those dismiss during jury selection, only if you serve on a trial) do get paid for their service, either by their employers or by the court. However, you will have to wait up to 6-8 to get your money.
When you receive the summons you are given the opportunity to postpone your appearance date but they will just call you back in six months. Also don’t think you will get am automatic exemption, they have done away with those (unless you are a convicted Felon or not a US Citizen). Would you rather do jury duty during the summer months or winter months in New York City? I will take the summer.
I have to omit that I was totally unprepared because I just knew I was not going to get pick. Although, I tried my best to get as much work done before July 31st just in case. However, if I had a more mobile style business, I would have a much better reaction.
Here are some tips on how to survival Jury Duty as a Freelancer
1. Notified the necessary people (clients, business partners, etc.) you need to as soon as you get that Jury Duty Summons in the mail. Let them know the date you are suppose to report and tell you will be out of the office for a minimum of two days. If anything changes try to contact them as soon as possible. Depending on the case they need 12 jurors and at least two alternates. The trial may begin on that first day if all jurors are chosen. You never know how things may go.
2. Make sure you know the rules of security and food. Since September 11th, security is no joke. Make sure you factor in time to get through security everyday you must report. They also ask that you limit the personal belonging you bring with you. Now, let’s talk food. Depending on the type of trial you may be sequester, meaning you are not allowed to leave the Jury Room at anytime. So you need to know if you are allowed to bring any food or drinks in the building. In my case once we were chosen our jury pass allowed for us to bring food in and we were allowed to go outside for a lunch break. Once we started deliberating however we had to stay inside.
3. Bring a sweater, it get chilly after awhile. Don’t forget a bottle of water, gum and or mints. Even though you aren’t talking while in the jury box outside of the interviewing portion during jury selection your mouth might get dry.
4. Change your work hours. Try and get some work in before and after court and on weekends. Hopefully you won’t be one a case that’s longer than a week or two. Once the trial start your downtime will be limited.
Now for the really important tip.
5. Make your business mobile – charger, extra battery, and a mobile hotspot. Whether you are doing Jury Duty or not having a mobile business cannot and will not hurt you or your bottom line. If your business has an employee of one, you have to be mobile. It will lessen some of your stress. I wish I were.
Make sure your laptop is fully charged and you have at least one backup battery full charged as well. The Kings County Supreme Court jury assembly room didn’t have many outlets and it was the only place that had Wi-Fi. As a juror you won’t have access to your phone, computer or any device that will allow you to contact anyone or access the Internet because by law you are not allowed to research or discuss (outside the time you are told you can) the case. Just in case, you may want to bring in a power strip so others can share.
Also please don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get much done. I did because I was so stress out over the time spent away and trying to make up for at night over the weekend. I would fall asleep at my computer and wake up tired the next morning. I’m glad to the trial is over and I’m back to work. I feel like I am so behind.
I know now that six years from now, if and when I get call again that I will be better prepared. I will have my laptop, extra power source, and a mobile hotspot or whatever piece of technology we will be using then so I can maximize for downtime however short they are.