One year ago, Bob and I decided to begin occasional jury research as a part of our trial preparation. After going through the process and putting in the time, we have gained a deeper understanding of the importance of jury research.
Why we do it
A lot of research and time goes into preparing for trial. But even with preparation, there can still be unknowns heading into court. We try and narrow those unknowns. One way we do this is by conducting mock juries to better understand how a jury will react to both sides of a case when we take it to trial.
Often times a jury will focus on something that we lawyers thought was minor (or that we missed all together), and they’ll pay no attention to other things, like the ones we thought mattered the most. As mentioned in “Jury Research: What it is and Why it Matters,” the goal is to closely observe human thinking and behavior and to recognize what resonates most with jurors.
Pulling the group together
When gathering a focus group, it’s important to match the likely jury as closely as possible to what a potential jury would be. We make it a point to acquire people of similar genders, ages, races, and backgrounds to the likely jury, to capture all possible viewpoints. However, since demographics are only a start and we can’t ever predict who will be on the jury in the actual trial, it’s best to get as many different types of people as possible during our jury research.
Taking the pulse of the people
During this process we present both sides of the case while remaining objective. We make sure the participants do not know which side we are representing to preserve the authenticity of their opinions. It’s important that the group feels comfortable enough to share what they think, so we like to keep the meeting structured but less formal than an actual day in court. There is both a science and an art to the proper preparation, presentation, and analysis of the jury research.
Putting in the extra work
Putting together a mock jury involves a lot of extra work for it to be effective. While we do not create a mock jury for every case, we believe it is good to get an outsider’s perspective from time to time. It prevents us from looking at a case a certain way for a long time, and not realizing how someone else will think about it.
Conducting jury research focus groups can require a lot of time and money, but we continue to find it worthwhile. The information and insights discovered are invaluable to our clients. And in a time when fewer and fewer cases make it to trial, it allows us to keep our courtroom skills sharp. It’s just one more way we can narrow the unknown to better serve our clients.