By Michael G. Liffrig
University of Michigan Law School (1985)—President, First Court, Inc.
Jury research requires a substantial investment of money and legal time. Even the simpler new forms of research utilizing the internet can be costly. Here are fifteen time-tested questions to make sure you and your litigation team get the most out of your jury research investment:
15 Questions to ask when choosing a jury research firm:
1. How long has the jury consulting firm been in business?
Important research projects are no place for newbies. Prefer those proven in the market for at least ten years. Experience trumps academic degrees here.
2. What are my total costs going to be?
Prefer flat fees; avoid firms that cannot tell you exactly what your research will cost.
3. When will my team actually see or hear any jury feedback?
It is a huge advantage for your team to get detailed, instantaneous juror feedback, while they are all assembled to present the case. Why? Because that is when they are all focused, able to brainstorm and make decisions. If you only receive juror feedback in a report three weeks later, for example, you lose that collaborative energy.
4. Will the results of my research be available to help me at the settlement table?
Most cases settle. It’s a huge advantage if your research investment can generate materials that will help you reach a favorable resolution.
5. What research format will be used, and why? Exactly how will the research be conducted?
Get an Agenda to see how the research time will be spent. Ask for a picture of a past trial/session so that you have a clear idea what you are going to experience.
6. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the various research formats you offer?
Be open to new research formats that fit your case. The research format should fit your case, even if someone on your team has used a certain format in in the past.
7. How much guidance will your firm offer as we prepare for the research?
Confusion in the prep stage costs time and money. Prefer several preparatory phone calls and a clear checklist, with deadlines. Last minute rushing is evil. So are surprises. Insist on a rehearsal before the research begins. Look for researches who like lawyers, and avoid researchers who disrespect them.
8. What role will the attorneys play in the research?
If you want to see your attorney in action, or to see how a key witness comes across on the stand, make this clear. Ditto if you’d prefer to leave your attorneys or witnesses out of the research.
9. Where will the research be conducted?
Privacy and fit are far more important than a big name venue. Big names cost big money.
10. How will the feedback be generated?
The point of most research trials is to generate feedback. More is better. Different kinds of feedback are ideal. Instantaneous, bite-sized feedback from each juror throughout the research trial, while impressions are fresh, is better than one giant debrief at the end.
11. How will the jurors be selected?
Avoid professional jurors or experienced opinion givers. You want real people who have not served on any sort of jury before. The exact county where a juror currently resides is less important than life experiences that will actually impact the way a juror sees the case.
12. How much will I know about the jurors before the trial begins?
More is better. Jurors should be interviewed on the phone before they get hired. Get access to all the questions each juror has answered. Get a snapshot of the typical demographics in your trial venue, to make sure your group is a fair cross-section of the trial venue.
13. Jury picking is everything. Do you offer any opportunity to conduct a practice voir dire as part of the research project?
This is only important if you plan to take the case to trial and if the venue/judge allows the lawyers to ask questions during in jury selection.
14. What are the jurors told regarding the purpose for the research?
You want jurors who are going to be as emotionally invested in the case as a public jury will be.
15. Describe the report I will receive. When will the report be delivered to me?
Raw data should be delivered the next day. In-depth analysis may take a week or so.