Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Is your trial story believable? What strengths of your case can you emphasize? What are the weaknesses that you can eliminate? What are the trial themes that are persuasive? These are only some of the questions that jury research can help answer. Despite the opportunity to conduct structured jury research, I have heard the following statement many times in my career from trial counsel: “I do not need to conduct jury research because I test all my cases on my paralegal.” As a jury researcher, I certainly cannot state that the quantitative and qualitative data received from “testing” a case on a paralegal is scientifically valid; however, I do understand and appreciate why many trial counsel rely on their paralegals to provide valuable feedback on the persuasiveness of the story line and themes of the case. The Process Before we get into the reasoning for why paralegals are sometimes relied upon to fill the role of mock jury, it is important to understand the methodology that jury research is based upon. Jury research provides the opportunity to evaluate how jurors view key arguments and evidence in a case. This is done prior to trial by testing themes and arguments in a case to a panel of surrogate jurors. A typical jury research project involves a focus group, where jurors are matched to the venue based upon numerous demographic variables. These jurors are then carefully screened to assure that they are jury eligible before being placed on the mock panel. Attorneys deliver a presentation for both the plaintiff and defendant. The presentations are thematic in nature and generally supported with key documents, graphics and testimony. The results of the presentations are evaluated in the following three manners: � Questionnaires: Jurors answer a series of questions at different phases in the jury research that are designed to measure their key beliefs and attitudes, their reaction to the strengths and weaknesses in the case, and their feelings about liability and damages. These questions are administered in three phases: Pre-stimulus: The questionnaires are administered to the jury prior to hearing the case information to gain insight on the key attitudes and beliefs that jurors bring into the courtroom. Post-presentation: Jurors answer a series of questions designed to measure the strengths and weaknesses of the presentations by the plaintiff and defendant. Post-stimulus: Jurors provide feedback to case-specific questions, which provide an understanding on how jurors approach the verdict and damages, prior to entering into deliberations. � Deliberations: After the presentations and questionnaires, the jurors are separated into groups. They are provided a verdict form and jury instructions and given the opportunity to deliberate without moderator interference. Once jurors reach a verdict, they are interviewed about their decision-making process and a variety of other issues related to their perceptions of the case. Consultants look to determine which themes fuel jurors’ verdict preference. � Impulse System: During the presentations, jurors are provided with a remote control voting mechanism. The impulse system is designed to allow each juror to provide instant feedback to the presentations. This instant feedback will be analyzed to determine the arguments that are perceived as strong or weak. After the deliberations, all of the qualitative and quantitative data is thoroughly analyzed. Consultants spend many days analyzing the information and report back to the trial team while focusing on identifying key strategies, risks and recommendations to assist in developing the most compelling story for trial. Why Paralegals? Now that you understand the jury research process, a look into how jurors form decisions provides context to why paralegals can assist trial counsel in providing valuable feedback about the case’s persuasiveness. Based upon conducting jury research and the study of jury decision-making, we know that jurors are persuaded by powerful trial themes. A theme is something important that the story tries to tell the jury � something that the jury members can relate to in their own lives. To provide context, think about your favorite movie. Usually, your favorite movie has a theme that draws you into the movie and that you relate to. Jurors approach the case in a manner that is similar to you choosing your favorite movie. Jurors look to determine what theme in the case they enjoy and with which they can relate, empathize or rationalize. To further illustrate why trial themes are so crucial to develop, one should also consider that jurors are required (summoned) to serve as jurors. Being a juror is not any easy task. For many jurors, it is stressful due to constraints on their time. For many other jurors, the information they hear at trial and the trial presentations are complex and burdensome. To make matters worse, jurors are generally not allowed to ask questions, sometimes cannot take notes and cannot seek out independent information that would facilitate their understanding. At the end of the trial, jurors are then forced into a deliberation room with a number of their peers and told they must render a verdict. These deliberations have the potential for conflict and can be extremely stressful to many jurors. Therefore, to make the information in the case easy for a juror to understand and to assist jurors in rendering a verdict, jurors yearn for information that is simplified and packaged in themes. Trial counsel should rely on paralegals because they can separate themselves from the case. They, unlike many attorneys, are not wrapped up in the minutia of facts and legal arguments. Therefore, a paralegal provides lawyers with an objective ear and an opinion about whether the attorneys’ trial themes are persuasive. Beyond lending an ear and an opinion on the eve of trial, paralegals can also be used for their unique and objective services at the discovery process. With the understanding that jurors are persuaded by powerful trial themes, a paralegal can assist trial counsel in developing and organizing their trial themes during the discovery process. In order to accomplish this task, the trial team should meet prior to discovery and discuss the themes in the case that they are looking to develop. Thereafter, the discovery materials should be organized by theme, rather than by document type or deponent name. This will assist the trial counsel to focus earlier on the strengths and weaknesses of the trial themes. Conclusion While not every case is made for jury research, a trusted paralegal can act as the de facto jury consultant by keeping the trial counsel thinking about the themes that will be persuasive to a jury. From the beginning of discovery to the time of trial, a good paralegal should be asking him/herself what are the themes the attorneys are looking to develop? How does each document or deponent support the trial theme? Is the evidence that relates to the theme the attorneys are gathering persuasive? Finally, do I like this trial story? In short, a good paralegal knows when he or she hears a good story! Ron Kurzman is a partner and senior litigation consultant for Magna Legal Services. He is an expert in assisting counsel to develop trial strategy for large, complex matters, based on behavioral research and jury analysis. Kurzman is a frequent lecturer at universities and law firms, and performs significant pro bono work with the New York Lawyers of Public Interest.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.