From what we’ve seen in our many years of researching jurors and assisting trial teams, there are two main types of final work product a client can receive from a jury consultant after a mock trial or focus group project: a thorough, useful analysis of the results, and then what we’d refer to as a reporting of the results.
These are not equal. One uses the results and participant responses to create juror profiles and offer thoughtful, specific guidance regarding how to play to your strengths, overcome your weaknesses, and persuade jurors at trial. The other essentially recaps the data gathered at a project that you probably attended.
As we’ll discuss, it’s not that a fast and simple report is never appropriate. Rather, the issue arises when clients aren’t aware that it’s even possible to get more than that. Knowing about the differences between these two types of reports allows you to ask the right questions from prospective consultants, in order to ensure you are receiving the type of post-test report that meets your research goals.
So, if a jury research project is in your future, let’s first take a look at how to get the most out of your results:
How Is an “Analysis” Different Than a “Reporting”?
It is common to see final reports that are a stack of computer-generated charts and graphs – akin to reading through a compilation of appendices. You may or may not see one or two pages of actual conclusions drawn from the data and a few tactical recommendations. Such feedback can be thought of as a reporting of results: Here’s what happened at the test. Here are the leanings. Here are the numbers/percentages. Here are the jurors’ comments. You might get some graphs, but this format doesn’t help you understand how your case story is working or not working, nor does it offer detail about what to do about that.
The alternative is a report that provides a thorough analysis of the results – one that goes beyond the reports of the raw data. Such an analysis saves clients time by providing the conclusions and meaning behind the data and the appropriate next steps. A sophisticated analysis will clearly explain your vulnerabilities and strengths, from the jurors’ perspectives, and then recommend case themes and strategies to address those vulnerabilities and leverage those strengths.
The Benefits of Good Jury Research Analysis
Analysis almost always paints a more nuanced picture than mere numbers suggest – and these nuances can make all the difference in your outcome.
Let’s say you receive your results and they show mock jurors’ verdicts were split. A split in jurors – indeed, even an apparently favorable outcome – can be a much weaker position than it seems. There may still be concealed pitfalls in your case. For example, jurors may only have favored the defense on a technicality, the particular wording of a verdict form question, or a misunderstanding. A large majority may have wanted to rule against you, and a minor change in case circumstances or jury dynamic during trial might push the real panel to do so.
This is where receiving guidance, not just results, comes into play. Success in the courtroom is not purely about arguing “legal” issues – it’s a matter of effectively communicating and connecting with jurors. You can have all the “facts” lined up and on your side, but if the jurors don’t understand them or reject your framing (your story) of the case, they’re likely to reject your case.
Why Can’t I Analyze the Results Myself?
Ultimately, we recommend trusting an experienced consultant, one who has been trained in the social sciences and has years of hands-on trial experience, to analyze your results for many of the same reasons you shouldn’t do jury research in-house. Our attorney clients know their cases inside and out – but they also know that that means there’s an unavoidable tendency to read research results through a filter of what they already know about the case, and what they expect jurors’ reactions to be.
And jurors’ logic is not attorneys’ logic. Without a thorough analysis by an independent party, you’re left with your own interpretation of the research results, filtered through your lens. Quality outside analysis provides blunt, unbiased feedback about exactly what a case needs, and how jurors need to hear those arguments to be persuaded. Experienced consultants are also able to spot unusual findings, extrapolate to actual trial results, and compare your case and research results to other cases that were successes or failures at trial.
The Level of Analysis Should Always Match Your Research Goals
Analysis, of course, is not an all-or-nothing deal. We know not every client has the time, money, or need for a comprehensive report.
It comes down to your research goals. If your budget is particularly limited, that’s understandable. If trial is right around the corner and you need your questions answered yesterday, you don’t have the luxury of waiting any longer. Likewise, if you have an extremely narrow set of research questions to address – such as simply wanting to determine the range of damages you could expect at trial – a relatively straightforward focus on results can suffice.
Nevertheless, even a lean report should be followed up by – at minimum – a debrief to discuss the meaning of those results and provide case recommendations. Much of the information most useful to your case lies below the surface of the results; staying only at surface level reduces the value of your research.
How to Get Your Money’s Worth
To get the most out of your next project, it is critical to ask prospective jury consultants about the exact type and level of analysis and recommendations you can expect to receive. Consultants can often provide a redacted sample report for your comparison. Make sure they can tailor the final product to your budget and your research goals.
Ultimately, jury research that returns a weak or nonexistent analysis is still a hefty investment. So if you’ve decided to make that investment, isn’t it crucial to get a superior product? What do the results mean? What does that signify for your case? And, most importantly, where can you go from there? The right consultant can tell you.
For more on picking the right consultant, including what specific questions to ask, check out our comprehensive guide. And of course, feel free to contact us directly to learn about the benefits of analysis and how a better product can still fit your budget.
By: Barbara Hillmer, Ph.D. – Senior Consultant