Mock Trials & Focus GroupsWe have spent many years at Trial Behavior Consulting refining our ideas about how to conduct jury research that is maximally useful for our clients.  We recognize that mock trials and focus groups are a big investment.  Our commitment is to ensure that you get valid research that translates well to trial and provides the insights you need to prepare to win.

In our usage, a focus group is an exploratory, creative conversation with jurors guided by one or two consultants.  One focus group usually takes half a day or an evening.  We prepare a script and questions in consultation with the trial team.  A mock trial is a structured, argumentative case presentation in which attorneys present both sides of the case.  A mock trial usually takes at least one day.

Mock Trials

A mock trial is ideal for testing:

  •  trial strategy, themes, and arguments.
  •  reactions of jurors to expert and lay witnesses.
  •  jurors’ comprehension of demonstrative evidence.
  •  juror reactions to attorney presentation and demeanor.

Mock trials are also useful for uncovering the juror attitudes and experiences that influence jurors’ verdict decisions. If good data is collected, it can be used to develop a jury selection “strike” profile. Data from mock trials with fewer than 50 participants must be interpreted cautiously, however. If you want only to develop an empirically sound juror “strike” profile and don’t care about feedback on case themes and presentation, a cost-effective method is to run a community survey. You can also run a mock trial with 50+ jurors.

We recruit participants based to match the local jury pool of your venue. Mock jurors are screened based on stringent demographic and experiential criteria, which can include criteria specific to your case. (For example, in a recent case that involved a Latin American bank, we recruited to ensure a broad representation of Latinos, both native and foreign born). We screen out people who appear to be “professional” focus group participants.

In consultation with you and your trial team, we develop questionnaires and other mock trial materials designed to uncover key issues for jury selection and solicit juror reaction to most persuasive themes and arguments. We also brief ourselves on your case and provide you with insights based on our experience and research in similar cases.

After the mock trial, we perform both quantitative and qualitative data analysis and provide you with an oral presentation, summary report, or complete written report (depending on which best meets your needs).

Even if you are moving towards settlement or want to use arbitration, a mock trial can give you the leverage you need in negotiations. Having assessed the impact of damage arguments against a representative group, you can approach negotiations or case presentation with empirically sound information as well as your sharpest legal arguments.

Focus Groups
Clients often use focus groups early in the discovery process to discover what native experiences, concerns, and ideas jurors bring to the case and determine what kinds of education might need to take place in the courtroom. A focus group at this stage can also give good ideas about persuasive trial themes and types of fact witnesses that will be needed. Focus groups can be useful for testing juror reactions to specific demonstrative exhibits, opening statements, and/or testimony, although in most cases, we find that a mock trial format provides better feedback.

Focus groups identify initial impressions, discover metaphors and analogies ascertain reactions to defenses and bad facts and uncover the irrelevant and relevant issues. They usually involve a consultant explaining the case facts, followed by a question and answer session with the participants. The number of participants for this type of research ranges from seven to ten. Since a focus group is an interactive forum, the consultant can conduct an in-depth examination of what jurors do and do not understand about the case issues.