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