Though many mock trials and focus groups have been put on pause in hopes of safely resuming to business as usual, we’re finding that some jurisdictions won’t be suitable for in-person research for quite some time. Yet, trial dates loom – with some already fast approaching – and we’ve received several inquiries about online jury research options on the grounds that something may be better than nothing.
Indeed, online jury research is a valid option that can provide worthwhile results; but before deciding to move your research to a virtual format, it’s important to be aware of its strengths and limitations:
Online Jury Research FAQs
1) What can we learn from online jury research?
We’ve found online jury research to be effective at identifying the evidence and arguments that jurors find most persuasive, as well as evaluating the credibility and helpfulness (or lack thereof) of witnesses based on their deposition videos. Just like our in-person research, we can also analyze the background attitudes and experiences that distinguish plaintiff supporters from defense supporters – valuable for developing voir dire and in jury selection.
2) How well do online attorney presentations keep mock jurors engaged?
The key to maintaining jurors’ attention during online presentations is two-fold: giving shorter presentations and incorporating a mixed-media approach. Smooth transmission in the virtual format is also crucial, so attorney presentations are pre-recorded; this allows for concurrent overlay of attorney argument, PowerPoint slides, document presentation, and video deposition excerpts.
3) How can you be sure the mock jurors are paying attention?
Just as in a live trial, the eyes and minds of jurors may occasionally wander, but we take steps to minimize the impact of in-home distractions. Our staff continually monitor participants’ engagement through their webcams to ensure they are both present and attentive.
4) How will the attorneys and their clients get feedback from the mock jurors?
Following each presentation, mock jurors answer multiple choice and open-ended questions via a secure survey tool. Just like an in-person project, we’re able to email these results to the team throughout the day. Shortly after the project concludes, we compile and disseminate the full data set and verbatim written responses as a single Data Report.
5) What happens if mock jurors experience technical difficulties or have trouble operating the software?
Our team conducts a personalized technology training session with each participant prior to commencing the research. Doing so helps us preemptively troubleshoot technical issues, while at the same time helping us to confirm we’re engaging a representative panel – and not simply those who are computer-savvy. In the event a technical issue still arises, our team members are available to call the participant and resolve it promptly.
6) How well do online deliberations emulate the real thing?
Online research will never replace in-person research, as the interpersonal communication and dynamics just can’t be replicated in a virtual format. However, the online deliberation process remains productive by having jurors take turns weighing in on the verdict questions, providing valuable insight into their evaluation of the case stories, witnesses, vulnerabilities, and strengths, as well as their rationale for damage assessments.
7) What are the limits to confidentiality?
There is one key limitation to the online format: the inability to ensure that participants do not take screenshots or other recordings of the attorney presentations or jury discussions. Although we require jurors to sign confidentiality agreements and provide oral affirmations to abide by them, it is impossible to completely guarantee confidentiality. As a result, we recommend that clients use pseudonyms for the parties and witnesses whenever possible.
8) What other limitations should we be aware of?
Distractions. In an in-person format, there are limited distractions, but it is impossible to control what goes on within jurors’ homes. While we request that they isolate themselves, interruptions from family members cannot always be prevented.
Damages. All jury research is limited in predicting damages, and online research is no different. Rather, what a client can learn is the rationale for why jurors want to award damages, the factors driving damages up or down, and perhaps a range of potential exposure given the presented factual scenario.
Smaller Groups. In an online format, smaller groups of six to eight jurors per jury are preferred to maximize juror feedback in a shortened time span and ensure everyone has a chance to be heard on each issue. Naturally, however, this equates to less total feedback and a group dynamic not fully illustrative of the standard jury size.
With these considerations, if you’ve found yourself running out of time to conduct in-person research or are interested in collecting preliminary juror feedback online, reach out to us to discuss your goals. Or, to learn more about our online jury research program, as well as the many other services we can perform remotely, please visit our Virtual Services page.