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Automating Results for Mock Trials and Focus Juries

By Peggie Brown, for Hostedware Corporation

 

Attorneys use mock trials and focus juries when determining relevant case issues and themes the actual jury may bring to the case. Mock trials and focus groups provide feedback as to persuasive themes, themes that go right over their head or are totally unbelievable. Because attorneys think like attorneys, evaluating cases based on their idea of the law and legal issues presented, a focus jury may really open the attorneys' eyes as to what the layperson hears upon the attorney's presentation.


Many times attorneys learn actions do indeed speak louder than words. If the jury picks up on an annoying habit, a gesture that contradicts the speaker's words, an arrogant attitude or even a message conveyed through one's style of walking, the focused action may become the deciding factor of the case rather than any words spoken or arguments presented.


Jury Selection
Select the focus jury with the same demographic makeup as what you anticipate for actual trial. A diverse selection allows you the benefit of statistically analyzing if certain demographic factors (such as race, age, background) influence opinions. Select from 12 to 15 jurors. If you choose a larger group, break them down into groups of 12 to 15 for deliberations. Use observers for each group; get feedback on personality interactions, surprising emerging leaders, dynamics forcing capitulation, persuasion techniques and possible bullies. These valuable observations allow for focusing and analyzing the issues utilized in rendering a verdict.


Your focus group results may head you back to the case file for new, more persuasive themes and clearer evidence or right to the deliberation table. If the case continues, you now have information about people dynamics and from this can select a better jury.


Advantages of Mock Trials
Even seasoned veterans need practice runs at times. Mock trials force thinking through the entire case weeks before trial. Moreover, planning a mock trial demands a full evaluation of the opposition's case, because a strong case for the other side must also be presented for a meaningful mock trial.


Mock trials and focus groups offer the ability of seeing whether the attorney's perception of the strengths and weaknesses of the case prove true. Mock trials generally include brief opening statements, summation of evidence, closing arguments, jury instructions and deliberations. Focus groups tend to be shorter in length and usually provide feedback as to questions, confusion and overall case strengths and weaknesses without going through a group deliberation process.


In either case, you learn how the opponents' case may stack up against yours. These "dress rehearsals" also clarify issues for settlement. The mock trial or focus group just may change the attorney's and client's opinion of the case.


Mock trial exercises actually help reduce the scope of discovery and allow the trial team's valuable energy and financial resources to focus on only those issues and witnesses that jurors need in order to reach their decision. A larger panel (broken into smaller deliberation groups) usually yields meaningful distinctions about juror profiles. You may notice women's opinions differ from men's, or that people over 40 view the case differently. All this information, statistically complied, offers attorneys a wealth of data when selecting jury members.


Learn When It's Time to Make Changes Versus Time to Settle
Knowing the distracters and negative messages prior to the actual trial keeps the trial team on their toes and ready for a successful presentation. Find out what information simply bores the jurors rather than providing information they perceive as relevant and important to the case. Is the trial team's or client's dress sending off unknown perceptions? Is a specific witness so poor in their presentation that they actually hurt your case? Will the case produce so much empathy for the victim that jurors will want to award money regardless of fault? Is your client perceived as a corporate giant with lots of money?


Learn which exhibits helped your case and which confused jurors or gave the wrong message. Find out which pieces of information each juror felt was weak or non-existent. If you go to trial, you then know which pieces of your case need revisions or beefing up.

 

Group Dynamics Change Opinions
Ready for some stunning revelations? After presenting both yours and the opposition's case, survey each mock juror independently for their views and perceptions. Then hold the group deliberations. Finally, survey each mock juror again for changes in opinions and perceptions after being involved with the group. In some cases, opinions will change only slightly or not at all; in other cases the group dynamic totally changes the opinions of some jurors. Statistically analyze this data for patterns, giving you the advantage of picking out the leaders and followers when it comes time to select a jury.


Hosted Survey provides the tools needed to quickly and accurately gather this data along with all the other data extracted from a focus group or mock trail. Use Hosted Survey's unique statistical tools for analyzing and extracting important trends and patterns that will make all the difference in jury selection. While the important issue may seem to be the final mock jury decision, break down each element of the mock jury for a full understanding of how a small change could drastically affect the final decision.


Hosted Survey also has experienced statisticians and programmers who can assist you in really getting to the crux of the information you've extracted and using it to yours and your clients' best advantage.


Peggie Brown, experienced paralegal, freelance author and founder of Katsuey's Legal Gateway (www.katsuey.com).

 

Hostedware Corporation is a pioneer in providing online software solutions for research, education and performance improvement. Hosted Survey and Hosted Test are used by human resources professionals, market researchers, education and training organizations and membership associations worldwide.

 

 

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