New Technology Puts Jury Research at Your Fingertips
For complex and high-profile cases, and cases for which there is a lot at stake, jury research has become an accepted part of the case preparation process. Although jury research remains a powerful tool in evaluating cases and in developing trial strategy, it can require a great deal of time and money to accomplish. Often the cost puts it out of reach of lawyers with smaller cases and from smaller firms that could still benefit from jury research. In addition to the consulting fee, the costs include recruiting and paying jurors, renting space and audiovisual equipment, and food and travel expenses. Lawyers may also spend a great deal of time and money getting to and from the research site as well as being present at the research. These expenses are often in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Online jury research presents the possibility of a massive reduction in expenses. Even though online jury research has been around for a few years, it has remained pretty rudimentary. Often, jurors are presented with written descriptions of the case, there are no juror discussions or deliberations, and data analysis and presentations can be very basic. Consequently, the attorney is left with little data or data that are not very informative for his or her case.
However, a new breed of online jury research services are now offering more sophisticated and useful options at a reasonable cost for cases of all sizes: for example, the ability for jurors to view video presentations of attorneys’ arguments, rate them in real-time, and answer questions. Juror discussions or deliberations are available, and the data reports are comprehensive, informative, and easy to navigate. These new advanced capabilities give attorneys with numerous cases an opportunity to conduct powerful, effective, quick, and cost-efficient jury research.
Online jury research puts jury research in the hands of all attorneys from solo practitioners to members of some of the largest firms. In essence, online jury research is a powerful, sophisticated, quick, and cost-efficient data collection tool. It allows attorneys to get reliable answers to the pressing questions they have about their cases. More specifically, online jury research is an ideal tool to get a quick read on cases, even as soon as they are filed. Many times, attorneys wish they can get quick insight into what jurors think about their or their opponents’ damages requests, as well as their key arguments or evidence pieces. Online jury research allows attorneys to do all of that, and more.
What Is Involved in Conducting Online Jury Research?
1. Understand the Many Benefits of Online Jury Research
Online jury research allows you to get many of the benefits of traditional or live jury research, but at a fraction of the cost. With online jury research, you can test your case strengths and weaknesses, figure out which arguments and evidence pieces work and which do not, and find out the characteristics of your best and worst jurors. All of this can be done in the venue for your case, and with a representative sample of jurors. Data from such research can inform your discovery process and many other trial preparation procedures.
2. Find the Right Online Jury Research Firm
There are a few online jury research firms out there, but only a select few offer convenient and sophisticated services to meet all of your needs. The right firm should be able to offer a user-friendly process, tailor the research questions to get the answers you need, and provide a data output that is easy to use, exciting and informative.
The validity and reliability of the results are only as good as the sample of jurors from which they come. What this means is that the right online jury research firm must be able to recruit a representative sample of jurors from your venue, or a matched venue in extremely sensitive cases. Although it may be tempting to conclude that mock jurors with Internet access may not be representative of the real jurors, recent studies show that close to 80 percent of the U.S. population has Internet access at home. The online population is quickly becoming the same as the population. With that in mind, it is critical for an online jury research company to be able to find the right sample of willing participants for jury research
Another critical factor to consider in picking the right online jury research firm is how it goes about presenting the case information to the mock jurors. Most firms out there only have the capability to present written information. One of the cardinal rules in arguing before a live jury is to keep them engaged in your “story” to make sure that they remember as much as possible of your arguments. The same is true for a sample of jurors online. Reading text about your case and then answering questions will not keep jurors engaged, especially if they are participating from home. On the other hand, having video presentations of your arguments and those of the opposition will certainly capture and maintain jurors’ attention. Video presentations will also allow you to tap into one of the most important and informative features of jury research—real time ratings of your arguments (if using the right online jury research firm, of course).
As mentioned earlier, one of the greatest benefits of online jury research is the capability to test the strengths and weaknesses of your arguments, and determine which arguments and evidence pieces work and which do not. The leading-edge online jury research firms can have jurors rate the attorneys’ arguments as they are watching the video presentations. When the research is completed, the attorneys can review the videos of each side’s arguments and see which arguments garnered high and low ratings. This gives attorneys direct feedback on which arguments and evidence points they need to highlight, as well as which ones they need to respond to when the other side presents them.
3. Determine the Key Arguments That You and Your Opponent(s) Will Make
A crucial step for conducting jury research is to whittle down your mountain of evidence and arguments to a few central themes that you will communicate to the jury. However, you also need to figure out what the other side will say, so as to be able to prepare for and counter their arguments. Investing time and effort early on to produce brief and informative video presentations ensures that the mock jurors are listening to the key arguments and themes that each side will emphasize. Furthermore, attorneys who have participated in jury research of any type almost always appreciate spending time fine-tuning their arguments early on; it makes them that much more prepared when the time comes for trial.
4. Generate the Key Questions That You Want Jurors to Answer About Your Case
Online jury research allows you to get answers to standard questions about your case, such as which side do jurors favor after each presentation, and how much damages they would award. However, you can also come up with specific questions that you want jurors to answer. Different online jury research firms have varying capabilities when it comes to the types and number of questions you can ask jurors. Some companies allow a limited number of questions, and others do not allow for any open-ended questions. The right online jury research firm should give you options, in the number of questions you can ask about your case, as well as the ability to ask jurors to tell attorneys what the best arguments were for each side.
Once you have prepared each side’s main arguments and generated any questions you want answered, you can then conduct online jury research, and see how your arguments resonated with jurors.
5. Decide Whether or Not You Want Jurors to Discuss the Case
Online jury research can have a subset of jurors participate in a discussion/deliberation group. Jurors can view and interact with each other, as well as the moderator, just as they would in a live jury research. The attorney can either listen in anonymously to what jurors are saying, or actively participate and ask them questions about their case.
6. Use the Data Reports to Your Advantage
Online jury research is the ultimate data collection tool for any case. The right online jury research firm can show you which of your arguments worked and which did not, show you the characteristics of your best and worst jurors, and get you the information you need about damage figures. You can then use all of these data to impress your clients and show them that you have armed yourself with solid information about their case, all while being cost-conscious.
The time has come for jury research to be available for law firms and cases of all sizes. Online jury research can provide a powerful, sophisticated, quick and cost-efficient tool for attorneys to get the answers they need to the pressing questions they have about their cases. However, the answers attorneys can get are only as good as the online jury research firm they use. The right online jury research firm should provide you with a) a large sample of jurors, making it easier to do juror profiling; b) the ability to present video presentations to mock jurors to keep them engaged; c) the choice to ask open and closed-ended questions to get as much information as possible; d) focus group capability with a subset of jurors, to really get at how jurors understand a case; and e) ratings of the attorneys’ arguments so they can learn what worked and what did not. Armed with this information, attorneys, whether in solo practice or in a large firm, will have certainly done their homework when preparing for their clients’ cases.
Aref Jabbour, PhD., is president and managing director of LookingGlass, LLC ( www.lg-juries.com), which provides online jury research. Aref has a doctorate in clinical psychology and is an experienced trial consultant. He has worked on an extensive variety of litigation and jury research for law firms of all sizes nationwide. Aref can be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2010, American Bar Association.