Personal injury lawyers in Maryland and around the country are increasing using focus groups to give accident and medical malpractice cases a test run with mock juries. When I was a defense lawyer, we had a case where we spent over $100,000 on jury consultants and focus groups, culminating in a two day run with several mock juries who heard a great deal of detail about the case that was to be tried. Naturally, after a four month trial, we lost; the jury awarded the Plaintiff a multimillion dollar verdict. But the focus group process done on that level was fascinating. We watched the mock jurors through one way mirrors as they deliberated. It was amazing to see one juror misinterpret the evidence and then the next juror build off the prior juror’s error. Still, it was also impressive to see how well some of the mock juries understood the case in a relatively short period of time.
Of course, most cases will not support economically a venture of that magnitude. But some lawyers have become so sophiscated about mock juries that they can conduct their own focus groups to assist in predicting what the real jury will decide in a given case. Just as importantly, particularly in Maryland where voir dire is very limited, focus groups can also help lawyers determine in demographic and attitudinal terms which jurors are most (and least) likely to be receptive to the lawyer’s client.
If you are interested in doing your own focus groups, there is a great article on the web by David Ball that tells you how personal injury lawyers can do their own focus groups for less than $1,000.