A Mock Jury's Emotional Response Predicts Trial Verdict
For most trial lawyers, going to trial means presenting your side of the case before an actual jury of your peers – and the stakes couldn’t be higher because your client’s future and livelihood depend on it. What if there was another way to predict the verdict of a real jury – and avoid the risk, expense, and uncertainty that come with going to trial? In recent years, mock juries have been emerging as an effective alternative to traditional jury consulting that can help you determine how you should approach your actual trial.
Here’s how it works: Your legal team assembles their ideal mock-trial tribunal by selecting several individuals who match your target demographic in age, gender, educational background, employment status, etc. The mock jurors then sit through all or part of your presentation in much the same way that their counterparts in reality would. As one might expect from any sampling pool, some people nod in agreement while others shake their heads when watching various moments throughout your performance.
What is a mock jury?
It may sound complicated, but a mock jury is exactly what it sounds like. It is a jury of people who are pretending to be jurors to judge something or someone. A mock jury can be used by lawyers to test how effective their case will be in front of a real jury. Most often, though, they are used for training purposes for people who may eventually serve on a real jury. Regardless, mock juries keep a level playing field for both you the lawyer, and your client when it comes time to go to trial.
How are mock juries created?
Creating a mock jury requires recruiting people from a variety of different areas that reflect those in your actual jury pool. You can use college volunteers, social media platforms and other mechanisms to recruit a diverse set of participants. In addition, you'll want to obtain demographic information about them so you can try to match them as closely as possible with those who will serve on your actual jury. For example, if most jurors are going to come from within a specific zip code, then half of your mock jurors should come from that area as well. If your actual trial is taking place at night or on weekends, then make sure that half of your mock jurors were recruited during those times as well.
Benefits of using mock juries
One of our favorite benefits of using mock juries is that it helps both sides predict how they will do in a trial. For example, if jurors feel that your client isn’t taking full responsibility for his or her actions (which can be difficult to tell during real trials), then you may want to make changes before filing suit—or settle for less money. Similarly, you can use mock juries to predict what damages might look like before trial—the more jurors think your client deserves compensation, the better you'll probably fare in court (i.e., If we try my case, I'm going to win $1 million). So don't just send mock juries home after completing one survey; talk with them individually and have them discuss their findings with each other.
How do virtual juries work?
To obtain e-juries, law firms pay about $750 to obtain a pool of 500 people from various demographic profiles. Then they randomly divide these 500 people into two groups: one group sees and hears a three-minute video clip and then votes on whether they think it’s funny or not. The other group does not see or hear any video and just reads transcripts of witness testimony. Next, both groups hear arguments from opposing counsels before voting again on their verdict. That’s all there is to it. If an attorney feels like using an e-jury is worth $750—especially in today’s legal climate—it can be a win-win situation for everyone involved because e-jury results are taken very seriously by U.S. courts.
Lawyers who don’t believe e-juries should be used say that juries shouldn’t take place online at all but rather consist of real people who come together in courtrooms face-to-face to deliberate on cases with lawyers present. They also note that people who participate in internet jury pools aren't always representative samples of society, so they may represent biased opinions rather than accurate representations of how actual jurors would rule if presented with similar evidence. But others point out that these characteristics are true for live jurors as well since selection processes aren't always carried out accurately during jury selection.
How to use mock jury focus groups
Before lawyers try a case in court, they will often use a mock jury focus group to test their arguments and witness testimony. This is done because of one simple fact: emotion trumps all else when it comes to reaching an online verdict. Having people sit on a jury for your case allows you to gauge how they feel about your arguments and what type of approach is most likely to sway them. Focus groups give you qualitative feedback rather than quantitative, so you’ll want to keep that in mind as you work through your presentation. While participants may not be able to identify specific examples of false information or flaws in logic, they will be able to tell you how they felt after watching certain evidence or seeing particular witnesses on stand.
When can you tell what verdict will be handed down?
Once upon a time, juries were sequestered until it was time to render their verdict, but these days, jurors are allowed to leave at regular intervals during trial. Still, lawyers pay close attention to who isn’t in court when they’re making their closing arguments and hope that means any absent jurors weren’t swayed by emotional reactions. However, given today’s advancements in technology and online culture , there may be some merit to crowdsourcing that emotional response after all—especially if you don’t trust your own instincts. That was what one law firm did when they created a mock jury of 300 volunteers and gave them videos of real trials.
What are they looking for?
If you're trying to determine if your case is worth using a virtual jury, it might be a good idea to find out what people think about it. That's where mock juries come in. For trial lawyers, asking potential jurors their opinion on video evidence is crucial when deciding whether or not to take a case to court. But an online jury takes things one step further—it allows trial lawyers to ask dozens of potential jurors what they think at once by giving them access to online videos and letting them watch and react without having any knowledge of other responses (which means there are no biases).
How can an e-jury help my case?
The power of emotions to drive opinions may be more powerful than you know. If an ejury is introduced into your case before trial, it may help you determine not only what arguments to focus on during trial, but also how much your case might be worth if you are able to reach a settlement prior to going through with trial. The knowledge of how persuasive your case is likely to be can have a strong impact on determining value. It can also help you gauge how much should be offered in any settlement negotiations so that both parties walk away feeling like they got their money’s worth.