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San Francisco—Many litigators have grown accustomed to reaching out to jury consultants for advice as trial nears. Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold wants that expertise a little closer to hand. The San Francisco firm recently took the still rare step of hiring an in-house jury consultant to offer advice on cases in their earliest stages at less cost. “We use more and more jury consultants. It is the way that we practice, develop our themes, test our ideas,” said Sedgwick Chairman Kevin Dunne. “What we have found is that it is not inexpensive.” Robin O’Connor, who previously spent eight years as a trial consultant with Courtroom Sciences Inc., joined Sedgwick last month in the firm’s Dallas office, but will be working with attorneys firmwide. She has a doctorate in psychology from North Texas State University and participated in a successful defense of Oprah Winfrey. Having an in-house jury consultant allows lawyers access to cheaper, abbreviated advice, says Dunne. O’Connor has already done one focus group for Sedgwick, assisting the firm in deciding whether to opt for a jury or bench trial. “I think about it like working in an emergency room,” said O’Connor. “To have the most significant impact, it needs to be early on.” Even so, in-house consultants remain more oddity than in vogue. Denver-based Holland & Hart was perhaps the first to take the step, hiring one 15 years ago. Today the 300-lawyer firm has a nine-member group called Persuasion Strategies, which operates as a service of the firm, and includes graphics and media specialists. The members are free to work for other clients and firms-they’ve done work for Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, among others-after an internal conflict check. “We are a revenue source,” said Karen Lisko, a litigation specialist. “I have a billable expectancy, an hourly rate commensurate with the partner rate level.” The group is also a selling point with clients, Lisko said. “It differentiates Holland & Hart from the competition. And the third advantage is that it helps the lawyers.” But Ronald Matlon, executive director of the American Society of Trial Consultants, doesn’t think the trend is going to catch on. “When I talk to my colleagues who are trial consultants, I’ve never heard them say they have been approached by firms,” Matlon said. “It’s very, very unusual and there is no trend in that direction.”

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