Litigation Tips Archive

Presentation Technology in Mock Jury Research

Magnus’ clients often use visual aids to enhance their mock jury arguments. These aids include video taped depositions, animations, and PowerPoint(tm) presentations. We welcome our clients’ use of visual aids in mock jury research, however, several practical considerations must be taken into account. First, Magnus should be notified well in advance of the research day of a client’s intent to use visual aids. We need to reserve the equipment and perhaps arrange for a support technician. Next, clients using this equipment need to allow ample time for set up. Most important, clients need to be prepared with all supplies related to the equipment they will use – research facilities rarely have the ability to respond to last minute requests. Proper planning will ensure that mock jury presentations are enhanced by the many tools available.

Contact Magnus to learn more about using technology in mock jury research.

Confidentiality and Jury Research

Many attorneys have asked how Magnus Research Consultants, Inc. protects their clients’ confidentiality. Magnus recognizes the need to maintain confidentiality and we take several steps to protect our clients in this regard. First, all of Magnus’ employees sign a confidentiality agreement upon hiring that prohibits them from discussing cases with non Magnus employees. Second, neither our mock jury recruiter or mock jurors know by which side of a case we have been retained. Third, our mock jurors are subjected to strict measures pertaining to confidentiality: they sign a written confidentiality agreement upon their arrival to the research facility; they are videotaped at the end of every jury research session during an oral affirmation of their agreement to maintain confidentiality, and they are sent a letter following the jury research session reminding them of the confidentiality agreement. Magnus has one of the strongest programs in the jury research industry for protecting our clients’ confidentiality.

Contact Magnus to learn why confidentiality enhances the jury research process.

Time Commitment for Jury Research

Properly conducted jury research takes time. Attorneys who commission jury research need to make a time commitment for the project, including setting aside time for preparing materials for the jury consultant, briefing the consultant about specific research needs, and making a live or taped argument to be viewed by mock jurors on the research day. Magnus Research Consultants does everything possible to minimize the attorney’s time commitment and to make jury research as effortless and efficient as the process allows. This being said, however, we will require contact with the attorneys who are our client in advance of the research day. Performing a valid jury research project requires our clients to talk with us to advise us of important factors that will impact our work. Magnus relies on our clients to give us the information we need, so that we may make informed decisions about each case in which we are involved.

Make a time commitment for jury research by contacting Magnus.

Taking the First Step in Retaining Magnus

First time clients are sometimes unsure about how to initiate contact with Magnus Research Consultants regarding a case. Magnus begins each engagement with a case intake procedure which includes a conflict check. The absolute first step in our involvement is the attorney’s provision of the case style and names of all attorneys involved. If there are no conflicts, Magnus will then conduct a needs assessment based on public record case details. Once this is completed, Magnus’ partners will develop a case specific proposal for the attorney’s consideration. After the proposal is accepted, a research and/or consultation date is selected, a retainer is requested, and documents are sent to Magnus so that we can familiarize ourselves with the case. One of the keys to working effectively with Magnus is to call, then retain, us early in the case.

What are you waiting for? Call Magnus to find out why to do jury research sooner rather than later.

Turning Skeptics into Believers

Although social scientists have been conducting research on juror and jury decision making for over 40 years, there remains a subset of attorneys, adjusters, risk managers, and corporate executives who are skeptical about the usefulness of mock trials, focus groups, attitude surveys, and other research methods. These skeptics are usually uninformed or inexperienced about jury consultants or former clients of jury consultants with whom they had a negative experience. Those who are uninformed/inexperienced regarding jury research’s benefits often do not know the limits of their own knowledge and expertise. Over the years, Magnus’ consultants have been told by prospective clients: (1) “I don’t believe in jury research”; (2) jury research is more an art than it is a science; (3) jury research is as accurate as voo doo, a crystal ball, or astrology; (4) “I know everything there is to know about jury behavior”; (5) “I have been trying (and/or litigating) cases for decades and there is nothing new a jury consultant can tell me”; (6) jury consultants’ work duplicates attorneys’ work; (7) “I know my case and my client better than any jury consultant will know them”; and (8) there is no money in the trial budget for non essential expenditures such as jury research. (The list of reasons is actually much longer, but these reasons are the most common objections we have heard.) Magnus’ response to most of these reasons for an unwillingness to conduct jury research is typically that: (1) we always learn something in every jury research exercise that we would never have learned absent conducting the research; (2) just as experts are retained in other areas of a lawsuit, it makes sense to retain experts in human behavior and decision making (both of which, arguably, are not usually among attorneys’ skills); (3) any information that helps in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of a case provides benefit for the case, and client; (4) because there is a high likelihood that opposing counsel is conducting jury research, the attorney who goes to mediation, arbitration, or trial without the knowledge gained from research is going to start out behind; and (5) if jury research is conducted, the attorney can rarely be accused by his/her client of not properly preparing the case. Other than the time and money required to conduct scientifically proper jury research, Magnus believes that, in today’s world, there is no valid reason for an attorney’s unwillingness to learn new information about the case.

The second category of skeptics arises from negative experiences with a jury consultant. These negative experiences often arise from an attorney’s work with an uneducated, inexperienced, unethical, or unprofessional jury consultant. Unfortunately, anyone who desires a career as a jury consultant has only to refer to himself/herself as a jury consultant; there are no regulating or governing bodies that control entry to the profession. Many attorneys are uninformed consumers of jury research and consulting services and, instead of retaining the services of qualified scientists, merely retain a consultant they like or who answers their questions in a socially desirable manner. For example, the Magnus partners recently met with prospective clients, who asked us to quote our “win/loss” rate. Not only is this an impossible question to answer, scientifically speaking, we are prohibited from doing so, both by our professional ethics and the organizations that regulate our work. Needless to say, the client retained the services of another consultant who glibly provided the (incorrect) answer the prospective client wanted to hear. We have numerous examples of attorneys who retain a jury consultant for all of the wrong reasons, have a negative outcome, then place Magnus in the same category as the other consultant. Magnus’ Director of Research, Dr. Melissa Pigott, has qualifications, experience, and expertise that are unparalleled in our industry; none of our clients will say otherwise.

In sum, Magnus stands by its promise to provide custom designed, scientifically based, jury research that provides information in a forum that cannot be found via other means.

Contact Magnus to receive the benefit of our “Insights for Successful Litigation.™”

Do it Yourself versus Professionally Conducted Jury Research

There are an increasingly large number of resources available for attorneys who want to conduct their own mock trials, without the assistance of a professional jury consultant. Attorneys who conduct jury research on their own miss the opportunity to derive many benefits associated with consulting with a jury research expert. The primary benefit of utilizing the services of a litigation psychologist or other jury research professional is the professional’s provision of objective, scientific evaluation of the case issues. Retaining someone with a doctorate in psychology or another social science and vast knowledge of human behavior will never be replaced by do it yourself jury research. The decision is yours, but jury research conducted by an expert in the field is one way to assure your clients that you have done everything possible to help them prior to mediation, arbitration, or trial.

Contact Magnus today to find out the benefits derived from retaining a professional jury research organization.

The Changing Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist is defined as the general cultural, political, intellectual, cultural, ethical, and spiritual climate within a nation or within a specific group.  The zeitgeist is also known as Athe spirit of the times.@  Todays zeitgeist is rapidly changing in terms of technology; societal values and customs; and political, moral, ethical, and religious beliefs.  Never before have we, as a country, experienced the numerous changes in as rapid manner as we are now experiencing.  It is more critical than ever to keep up with the changes in our world when representing clients who are involved in litigation, managing ones practice/business, or merely getting through the day. 

 

At Magnus Research Consultant and Magnus Graphics, we strive to keep abreast of the changes in the world by reading current psychological journals, communications publications, and business periodicals, as well as many other sources of both scientific and current events.  In addition, our Director of Research, Dr. Melissa Pigott, along with Magnus Consultant, Neal Webb, engages in academic style research to assess jurors opinions about many issues.  In addition to surveying mock jurors on case specific attitudes, Magnus also evaluates their responses on a variety of other issues.  We report these global opinions to our clients in a variety of ways, including publications in professional journals, CLE presentations, and our monthly electronic postcards.

Although attorneys and insurance adjusters often read journals and case law to keep up to date with changes in the legal arena, the knowledge gained from these sources is vastly different from placing ones Afinger on the pulse@ of what the average person is likely to think about issues that affect litigation.  Magnus is regularly reminded that attorneys and their clients view the zeitgeist in very different ways than the citizens who serve on both mock and actual juries.  It is common to hear attorneys and their clients remark, AI have been involved in this case for many years and I would NEVER have thought a jury would see things so differently than me!@  If you are out of touch with what people who are likely to serve as jurors on your case think about the issues in your case, then you are likely to be surprised by a verdict that is less than favorable.  One of the primary reasons for conducting mock jury research is to ascertain what non lawyers and non adjusters think about the case.  And, what Areal people@ think about the case is often related more to the current zeitgeist than the legal factors in the case.

Contact Magnus to learn more about jurors views of todays zeitgeist. 

Annual Reminder of Who We Are

Since 1993, Magnus Research Consultants has been providing custom designed, high quality, and scientifically precise jury research and consultative services. Magnus has come a long way since its inception and now concentrates primarily on helping attorneys and their clients on high stakes complex commercial litigation. Although we are still retained on personal injury cases, we have found ourselves working on more commercial cases and for more defendants (including large corporations and insurance companies) than at any other time in our history. Dr. Melissa Pigott continues to be Magnus’ Director of Research and, while Magnus has many more competitors than when we began our business, Dr. Pigott is unsurpassed in educational credentials and experience in the jury/trial consulting arena.

Magnus Graphics was founded several years after Magnus Research, when it became apparent to us that many of our clients wanted to have the same excellence in their demonstrative exhibits and trial presentation systems as they were accustomed to receiving from Magnus Research. Magnus Graphics has enjoyed a positive reputation among the clients we have served in our capacity of preparing exhibits for attorneys’ use in hearings, mediation, and the courtroom. We have received kudos from judges, as well as juries, when our graphics and trial presentation systems are incorporated into trials.

Magnus Research Consultants and Magnus Graphics have succeeded throughout all of our years in operation because of our clients’ appreciation of the “Magnus approach” to litigation. We continue to distinguish ourselves from other jury consulting and graphics firms by our commitment to excellence and scientific precision in all we do.

Contact the Magnus companies if you would like to retain us on your next challenging case. Let us put our experience to work for you.

Ethics in Litigation Research

There are almost as many kinds of jury consultants as there are lawsuits. Currently, there are no state or national standards relating to the qualifications of people who call themselves jury consultants. In addition, there are no formal educational or training programs or licensing requirements. In short, anyone can decide he/she has what it takes to work as a jury consultant. This means that many people who are charging a lot of money for their services lack the qualifications necessary for effective insight into difficult and often, complicated trial work. Typically, qualified jury researchers hold a doctorate degree in psychology, sociology, or communications and have considerable experience in the law arena. Qualified jury researchers usually belong to organizations that impose ethical standards which impact their work with attorneys. Ethical standards impact everything from recruitment of research participants to report preparation. Before you retain a jury consultant, check his or her qualifications so that you are an informed consumer of these services.

Contact Magnus to learn more about our consultants’ qualifications.

Using Deposition Videos to Enhance Jury Research

Our clients frequently ask us whether it is permissible to use excerpts of videotaped depositions during mock jury research. Magnus encourages this practice, especially in cases when the parties’ and witnesses’ personalities are likely to have an impact on the outcome of the case. There are a few guidelines to follow when preparing deposition excepts for mock jury research: (1) the excerpts should be brief – 15 to 20 minutes of key testimony is usually sufficient for most research designs; (2) testimony of opposition and hostile witnesses should present them in the most favorable manner possible so that the research is unbiased; and (3) inform us in advance of your intent to show videos so that we can ensure you have all the equipment you need at the research facility. Overall, the inclusion of videotaped deposition excerpts provides us with a valuable source of information to assess jurors’ views of your case.

Contact Magnus for more information on witness evaluation services.