New Digital Strategies for Jury Research

Prior to the pandemic, it might have been difficult to imagine a legal team conducting all of their jury research online – and that their research would be valid and insightful. But just as necessity drives change, law firms are learning to pivot and take advantage of new digital research strategies. A well-designed focus group, online survey, or virtual interview could generate valuable information about the strengths or challenges of your case. Digital jury research could identify your most persuasive arguments, evaluate witness credibility, and assess the overall attitudes about your case. Now is the time to consider incorporating these new research methods as part of your trial prep and litigation strategy.

Beginning Your Jury Research Sooner, Rather Than Later

You may be thinking, “should I begin my jury research now, while everything is virtual and online, or should I wait until I can conduct the research in-person again?” The answer might be, start working on your jury research now. Getting a head start could mean that you have more time to discover and leverage potential insights. This would put you in a better position to work on your litigation strategy and capitalize on your findings.

Potential Benefits of a Virtual Focus Group

With a virtual focus group, you could have approximately 6-12 mock jurors watch streaming video of live or previously recorded arguments. The group could then participates in a moderated discussion, with the hosts taking notes on the group’s reactions. It is estimated that the whole process would take anywhere between two to four hours.

An online focus group could allow attorneys and their clients gain valuable insights on how jurors may respond to key issues in the case. Those who participate in focus groups could also provide feedback on each party’s strengths and challenges. This could be a valuable tool for those trying to build a successful litigation strategy.

Potential Benefits of Online Surveys

With an online survey, an attorney could be able to gather research and insights from hundreds of jury-eligible individuals living within a specific region. The attorney could screen the individuals for eligibility, ask them to sign a confidentiality agreement, and then ask a series of questions related to their demographic and to the key issues of the case. These questions could be yes/no format or open-ended. The online survey could also feature audio-visual elements, including verbal descriptions, short videos, still images, and other graphics.

Traditionally, legal teams have conducted these surveys in person or over the phone. But with an online survey, an attorney could collect much larger samples and process the information quickly. Online surveys also tend to be less expensive than their in-person counterparts. As with the focus groups, online surveys could provide vital insights about the strengths of the case, any potential weaknesses or issues, and how a jury might respond to the case.

Virtual Interviews: Orientation Sessions

If you are conducting jury research by holding individual interviews, you might consider adding an orientation session for your participants. A few days before the interviews begin, you could check-in with the participants to make sure they understand how to use the communication technology, resolve any issues related to connectivity, and troubleshoot any other problems they may have. You could also use this time to handle any outstanding administrative tasks, such as signing/reviewing confidentiality agreements or completing background questionnaires. During the orientation, the participants could review the legal team’s code of conduct (if applicable) and gain a better understanding of the research process and its purpose.

By completing the technology and administrative aspects ahead of time, the participants would be fresh and engaged for the substantive part of the jury research. Legal teams could find themselves more confident about the productivity of their research sessions and the resulting insights from the group.

Reducing Distractions During Digital Research

As anyone who has worked remotely during the last couple of months will tell you – working from your home can present a unique set of challenges. There are countless distractions. While it might be more difficult to control the group’s behavior when they are participating virtually, there are a few strategies you can consider employing to help reduce distractions and keep your research group focused.

To begin, if you are planning a group discussion, you could limit the number of participants. (Participants per discussion, not the overall number of participants). Consider limiting it to between six and eight participants. A smaller group might result in more in-depth and on-point conversations. It might also prove easier to monitor a small group and keep them on task.

Another way to avoid distractions could be to prepare a presentation that is eye-catching and easy to understand. Attorneys could include visuals possible and keep the information brief but compelling. If the presentation holds the viewer’s attention, participants might be more likely to ignore the distractions in their home and engage with the material on their screen.

A third way to reduce distractions could be continually check-in with the participants. Legal teams could use webcams to make sure their participants are actively watching their screens. They could regularly request feedback through the use of polls, surveys, chats, or open discussions. Whether it’s through a visual prompt or request for a response, the hosts could make sure that the participants are focused on the presentation and not distracted by their surroundings. It might also be a good idea to have a technical team on standby, just in case any connectivity issues arise.

While legal teams may be hesitant to conduct their jury research online, with a properly planned and executed strategy, the insights gained from digital research could prove to be a contribution to the overall success of the litigation plan. Incorporating digital research now has the potential of putting attorneys in a better position as they head to trial.

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