Success at trial almost always requires a team effort. While teamwork is largely beneficial, it’s important to understand how the dynamics of a team can introduce potential problems. One of the most important side effects to be aware of is groupthink.
Litigators leave nothing to chance, juries included. While most trial lawyers feel comfortable selecting and working with a jury, a jury consultant is an invaluable addition to your trial team. Magna jury consultants work hand in hand with your trial team to plan, refine, and retool arguments, evidence, and visual communication strategies in order to strengthen your case with the jury.
Thanks to courtroom dramas, the “CSI effect” and Netflix documentaries, there’s often an unrealistic evidentiary expectation in courtrooms. This makes it difficult for the average person to predict jury decisions in the modern world. By using online focus groups, it’s possible to remove some of this uncertainty. These focus groups provide the benefits of analytics in trial prep, and they can help you recognize and correct weaknesses in your legal strategy.
When Mark Calzaretta watches a jury, hearing evidence in a high-stakes lawsuit, it isn’t necessarily an impartial panel of citizen peers he sees. Rather, Calzaretta sees 10 human beings with emotional biases that, if studied diligently, can help lawyers predict, with startling accuracy, the outcome of a case, often before it is tried.
Over time, the jury trial has evolved. Although the concept of a judgment made by one’s peers remains the same, attorneys have had to change their legal strategies in order to account for increasingly sophisticated jurors with evolving expectations.
Jury “selection” does not exist in the United States. Attorneys choose individuals to serve on the jury by “deselecting” from jury service those individuals who they expect to be unfavorable to their side. Identifying and systematically eliminating pro-plaintiff or pro-defense jurors could be your secret weapon in winning a trial.
Traditional jury selection techniques are often based on stereotypical notions about the influence of juror characteristics on verdict behavior. If you’ve ever tried to connect a potential juror’s gender, race, occupation, social status, marital status, age, religion or demeanor to their tendency to vote guilty or award higher damages, then you’ve probably exercised some of these preconceptions. Needless to say, none of these stereotypes has any scientific basis.
In contrast, scientific jury profiling uses empirical techniques and systematic analysis to develop profiles of favorable and unfavorable jurors. In our experience, only multiple levels of research can predict how an individual will approach the case, evaluate evidence, and render a verdict. Statistical profiling ensures that you’re in the best possible position to seat the best jury.
Jury Research Data and Focus Groups
Trial attorneys often pride themselves on their ability to communicate complex legal theories in a simple way. But when you’re living and breathing a case for many months, it is easy for your objectivity to become compromised. Focus groups and other jury research exercises can help fine tune your arguments and begin to identify some trends in jury profiling.
A mock trial or focus group typically involves the observation of small group deliberation, based on the presentation of testimony that closely approximates an actual trial. By analyzing what mock jurors find significant, meaningful or memorable about the case, we can develop early stage profiles about whether certain attitudes and experiences are likely to be pro-plaintiff or pro-defense and helps us to advise the trial team on the effectiveness of their argument and ways to improve.
Mock jury data can be gathered in various ways, including full trial simulations, shadow juries, focus groups and online mock juries. At certain times, we favor some of these methods and/or combine two or more types of exercises in order to gain the fullest data set to prepare for a trial. It depends on the complexity and value of the case.
When gathering mock jury data, it is important to realize that the quality of the findings is wholly dependent on the quality of the methodology: Put simply, you’ll get better results if the research team is well-versed in the nature of advocacy, presentation, communication, psychology and small group behavior, and designs the study with these factors in mind.
Large-scale Juror Profiling
While traditional jury research data is extremely helpful, it is often based on a relatively small sample size, both in terms of the total number of participants and the number of focus groups. Sample size is a key determinant of how much weight to ascribe to research results. Generally, smaller sample size groups should be interpreted with caution since the group’s characteristics may have been the primary cause of the outcome; they are not predictive in the statistical sense. This is particularly important when evaluating damage awards or responsibility allocations, which are the least reliable types of data.
Because of these limitations, we recommend large-scale juror profiling studies. Massive community profiling allows us to validate the initial profiles developed through our jury research, and determine with statistical certainty what types of jurors are likely to favor the plaintiff versus the defense in your case.
Large-scale profiling is a multifaceted protocol. It starts with one or more large-scale community perception surveys, which we administer with the intent of uncovering community attitudes and biases to each party’s respective position in the case. Research consistently shows that pre-existing attitudes are more predictive of verdict behavior than the potential juror’s experiences; and experiences are significantly more predictive than demographics.
In other words, it is not enough to find out what experiences the potential jurors had, but also what they learned from these experiences. Essentially, we’re using big data about ordinary people, such as their social media activity, to develop a statistically reliable verdict-orientation model based on what motivates people to think the way they do.
The impressions we collect allow us to develop and gain a more nuanced understanding of the kinds of jurors who would be more receptive to the plaintiff’s position than they would be to the defense case. Correlated with mock jury data, this can help us narrow down potential voir dire questions to those which we know are reliable predictors of verdict orientation. The goal is to help the trial team effectively identify and deselect jurors who cannot and never will be persuaded.
“Almost every case has been won or lost when the jury is sworn,” legendary defense attorney Clarence Darrow once claimed. That may be an exaggeration, but getting even a small edge can turn the tables in a difficult case. Jury profiling can give you that edge — as long as it’s the right type of profiling. Piecemeal small-scale mock juries have less value than aggregated results gathered from multiple data points and deeper statistical analysis.
Just as you evaluate cases in a critical manner, evaluate the quality of the research service used with the same considered eye. Choosing a consultant who applies multiple layers of rigor to their analysis ensures the quality of your data and assigns a degree of much-needed confidence to the results you have obtained. It can make all the difference.
If you’re ready to learn more about Magna’s jury profiling services, contact Magna Legal Services today.
As an attorney, your time is best spent interviewing witnesses, gathering vital evidence and planning strategic arguments to give your client the best possible representation. Your methods will in large part determine whether your client receives the desired outcome.
However, trials are not won or lost on legal minds alone. Many factors, including those that influence juries, are crucial to master in order to get the verdict you want. To make that happen, ensure you have these five areas covered — and consider obtaining an outside jury consulting service with the right expertise to take care of them for you.
1. Courtroom Reporter
Trial transcripts are essential tools for legal proceedings, especially those that go on to appellate court. As a lawyer, your job is not to transcribe the entire trial, but that document is key to future witnesses or arguments you make.
Specifically, a transcript is where you’ll memorialize issues for appeal due to the activities of the judge, jury or opposing counsel. At all levels, a transcript provides accounts of witnesses’ testimonial of crucial events, which you can use to bolster your cross-examination.
If you want to get help from the best, our court reporter are here to help.
2. Jury Surveillance
Ultimately, your client’s fate is in the hands of the jury. At every stage of the trial, from jury selection to closing arguments, you must keep their impressions of your case in mind.
Before the case even begins, you should do your best to select jurors who are most likely to see the case from your client’s perspective.
In order to choose the best jury, you should review their social media activity. This can provide insight into political or social biases that may prevent them from seeing your client’s case in the best light. Social media can also give a window into a juror’s points of view, allowing you to tailor your arguments in ways they will best understand.
Monitoring the social media feeds of jurors takes time that you just don’t have in your packed schedule. It also takes a certain amount of web savvy to successfully complete. Instead of taking it on yourself, consider hiring an outside jury consultation firm to monitor jury social media activity.
3. Trial Graphic Creation
Graphics are another important way you get your argument across to jurors. The right use of visual communication tools can simplify complex issues and help jurors zero in on what’s at stake. If jurors don’t understand your graphics, they miss a large part of your argument.
Surprisingly, it’s the little things that make your graphics hard to read, and the last thing you want is for jurors to feel frustration. Every member of the jury is essential to a successful verdict, and your case may turn on quality graphics, so small font sizes, too much detail or other factors can cost you.
Since you are a lawyer and not a graphic artist, you may want to hire an outside firm to take on the task. Come explore our trial graphics services.
4. Record Retrieval
Gathering records often comes with hassles, including fees to access records charged by hospitals and other institutions. As a lawyer, you may have additional concerns about the security of such records, especially when they involve your client. This is one task you can easily outsource to a company that has the resources and expertise to get the job done.
Magna, for example, has staff across the country to get the records you need for your case. The company provides record retrieval services not only in major cities, but in every ZIP code across the United States. That means Magna can acquire records from anywhere.
Learn more about our record collection services today.
5. Translation Services
Documents may come to you in a different language. It may be challenging and time-consuming for you to translate them to assess relevance, especially when a crucial legal point may rest on a small detail. Even if you speak a language fluently, you may want to offload the translation job to a team of trained experts.
At Magna, our linguists are fluent in countless languages. After their translations are complete, we certify them, so you receive additional assurance about their quality. In short, our translation and interpretation services simplify your working life so that you can focus on the other strategic issues.
Learn more about our legal translation services today.
Get in Touch for More Information
Teamwork is at the heart of a successful legal case. While you and your legal staff focus on the arguments that will bolster your client’s case, you can hire qualified individuals to perform other important tasks. You will be able to give your best legal work to your client while making sure no essential pieces of your case are missing.
Come explore our other jury consulting and discovery services, and request a free quote today.
Empaneling a shadow jury is an effective method of providing your legal team with real-time feedback on the reactions of the actual jury. A shadow jury is a group of people whose personal characteristics match those of the real jurors on a case as closely as possible. This matching goes beyond mere objective demographics. Through a questioning process similar to voir dire, organizers select shadow jurors for their life experiences, attitudes and opinions that reflect those of specific jury members. The shadow jury attends every day of the trial, hearing the same arguments and seeing the same evidence as the real jury. At the end of each day, the jury consultant debriefs the shadow jurors to find out their reactions to that day’s trial proceedings, and they deliver that information to your team. Based on these ongoing responses, your team may adjust the emphasis, method or framing of your case. The following four points show the key benefits that a shadow jury can offer you:
1. Pinpoint Strengths and Weaknesses in Your Case
Even with the best planning, it’s not always possible to predict how jurors will react to the unfolding of a court case. The opposition presents witnesses that antagonize the jurors against your client, and you may find yourself scrutinizing the jury’s body language to glean what they’re thinking. Shadow juries are able to explicitly convey their responses to you, via the jury consultant, so you aren’t left guessing about the effects of the day’s proceedings. They help your team pinpoint areas that need more explanation or focus your presentation to make it more persuasive. Jury shadowing gives you a new interactive agility, tracking where your jurors’ sympathies lie on a daily basis. The American Bar Association’s Litigation News features an example of using a shadow jury, and points out, “Although the trial team did not know exactly what the real jury was thinking, they were able to make meaningful inferences from the shadow jurors’ reactions to the trial.”
2. Identify Strong Juror Opinions
Using a shadow jury helps you recognize which jurors remain undecided, as well as which ones have settled on a strong opinion early in the trial and are inclined to ignore further evidence. A good way to ensure that shadow jurors are not just telling you what they think you want to hear is to keep the shadow jury “blind.” (In other words, they don’t know which side hired them.) This practice enables your jury consultant to receive unvarnished opinions from the shadow jurors, and to recommend specific trial strategies to you based on each day’s feedback. For example, if you are working to defend a client and your shadow jury finds the plaintiff’s witnesses highly convincing, that may give weight to your recommendation that your client settle the case.
3. Keep an Objective Perspective on the Case Status
You are saturated with the facts of your case, and you may be so focused on presenting those facts in a certain light that you lose sight of how your arguments are perceived by the jury. Sharing a body of information in a coherent, persuasive manner can be surprisingly difficult, and has many hazards: You may inadvertently skip important explanations, because you assume your listeners already understand the underlying concept. Or, you might engage in a lengthy recital of details which seem relevant to you, but which are so dense that the jury loses the thread of your argument. A shadow jury will be able to give you feedback on what they understand, helping you fine-tune your delivery of information.
The jury consultant adds another layer of perspective, as he or she distills and condenses the shadow jury’s responses. With this expert assistance, you are provided with an actionable set of recommendations regarding the shaping of your argument, and your time is used effectively. The use of this type of intermediary also allows the shadow jurors to express their unvarnished opinions of each attorney’s presentations, and this provides you with valuable feedback. In some cases, jury consultants even bring shadow juries together to “deliberate” before your closing arguments, so that you can have a preview of actual jury deliberations.
4. Recognize the Emotional Cues that Resonate
Every juror (and every shadow juror) comes to the trial with their own emotional baggage. This creates a set of filters that influences how these individuals hear and understand the arguments you give. When you have daily feedback from your shadow jury, it’s easy to recognize when you’ve succeeded in eliciting emotions that will cause the actual jury to be sympathetic to your case. Other essential emotional cues concern the jury’s reaction to the personality of your witnesses and experts. For example, you may find that jurors have a negative response to an expert witness whom you’ve hired, and you may decide to minimize that witness’s time on the stand. Visual cues and graphic images also pack a strong emotional punch, and your shadow jury’s response may cause you to fine tune your use of these exhibits in upcoming sessions.
Shadow juries provide the closest insight you can get into the crucial “black box” of the actual jury. Using this valuable research tool can help you to shape your argument, and the feedback from a shadow jury may also be invaluable in persuading your client that a particular course of action will be in their best interest. Learn more about our jury consulting services and contact us today for a free quote.
Legal experts rely on information to make their case. It is therefore essential that all kinds of information, from historical documents to eyewitness accounts, be properly documented. Without proper documentation, lawyers may lose crucial pieces of the evidence puzzle. In addition, discovery that is not properly documented may not be admissible into a court or may introduce mistakes into the evidence analyzed by both sides in litigation.
Given the importance of court reporting, it’s no surprise that individuals who perform this work take their jobs seriously. Like any profession, however, court reporting firms and their personnel fall on all points of the spectrum of expertise. To make sure that your legal team gets the benefit of premier court reporting, to safeguard the strength of your case and protect your clients’ interests, ask these four questions before contracting for services.
Do They Use the Latest Technology?
Court reporting has evolved significantly over the past three decades. Expert reporters have remained up-to-date on the latest technology and use it to provide expedient, accurate and secure transcripts. While in the early days reporters would take manual shorthand or repeat testimony verbally into a machine, now they make use of digital recordings.
Court reporters may use a variety of high-tech methods. They may monitor and annotate digital recordings and ensure the accuracy of a transcript. Many court reporters do not need to be in the room while testimony is taken, as they stream the proceedings live over an internet connection. These kinds of innovations ensure there is a human being to confirm the content of the transcripts, while relying on the advances of modern technology. When hiring court reporters, you want them to be fast, reliable and accurate.
Are They Part of a Full Service Agency?
Law firms that contract for court reporting services have a full suite of needs. Complex litigation requires not only discovery, but all elements of investigating and building a case. Instead of undertaking a time-consuming and expensive process to find an agency that provides all necessary services, it’s preferable to contract with one company to supply everything you need.
Look for an agency that is not limited to court reporting services. Ask if they also go the extra mile and provide expert service in the areas of record retrieval, courtroom setup services, language translation services, video services and others. Knowing they offer everything you may need means you won’t be left scrambling before a tight court deadline to pull together essential evidence.
Are They a Member of the NCRA?
Dedicated court reporters understand the necessity of properly transcribing the spoken word. As evidence of this commitment, many court reporting firms and individuals are members of the National Court Reporting Association. This association has existed for more than a century and offers education and training programs to ensure members meet the highest standards of the profession.
In addition to high educational and training standards, members of the NCRA adhere to a Code of Professional Ethics. This sets out obligations for ethical conduct toward the public, the bench and the bar. A firm that hires a member of the NCRA, therefore, can rest assured the court reporting has been done in a fair and objective way that both legal counsel and the court can trust.
What Areas Do They Service?
Litigation work happens wherever evidence needs to be gathered. Often, this means lawyers drive many miles into remote areas or have to go to a trial location mandated by the court. Local court reporting services may not have the resources to get where you need them to be, especially on short notice. Even if they are able to fly into town or drive to the site of the deposition or trial, they will likely bill your firm for travel time and accommodation costs.
Ask whether the court reporting service has personnel ready and available within your state and city, so you don’t have to worry about delays. Magna has a broad reach throughout the U.S., so you can rest assured your professional court reporter will be on hand with reasonable notice.
Magna offers clients many benefits apart from its large reserves of professional talent. The firm has experienced people, having been in the industry for a number of years. It has kept pace with changing times in the court reporting industry, using up-to-date software and technology to offer premier services to clients.
Choose the Right Court Reporting Solution
As legal counsel, you have a responsibility to your client to provide the best possible representation. While in-depth legal research and solid arguments are fundamental to making the case for your client, it is also essential that every witness’s testimony is properly documented. In front of a jury or a judge, a case can turn on a single word, and you want to know that evidence has been deposed and recorded in a way that is accurate and objective.
It has escaped precisely nobody that the new CBS drama “Bull” is playing a bit loose with the truth. In fact, that’s part of the joke. The title character is Dr. Jason Bull, played by Michael Weatherly, and he certainly looks quite a bit different than the real-life character he is based on: Dr. Phil McGraw. The idea is that he uses advanced technology and brilliant psychological insights to help the wrongly accused. Half CSI technology expert and half psychiatrist, he helps them develop bulletproof defense strategies and predict exactly how juries will react to the evidence and the testimony.