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.

Should Your Jury Consultant Work on a Contingent Fee Basis?

In a forthcoming article, Dr. Melissa Pigott examines the controversial topic concerning some jury consultants’ acceptance of fees based on the outcome of a lawsuit. Although contingent fee payments have a long history within the plaintiff’s bar, it is relatively new among jury and trial consultants. In Florida and in numerous other states, attorneys are expressly forbidden from sharing fees with nonattorneys, including, of course, jury consultants and expert witnesses. There has been a recent trend among certain attorney and their consultants which attempts to circumvent this prohibition by requiring the end client (most often the injured plaintiff in a lawsuit) to sign a contingent fee agreement with the consultant. Then, when the case is settled or a verdict achieved, the consultant is paid a percentage of the end clients’ recovery in a manner similar to the plaintiff’s attorney’s contingent fee payment. The ethical, scientific, and legal ramifications of this practice are far too numerous to delineate in this, electron postcard, however, suffice it to say that there are strong reason why jury and trial consultants should not work for contingent fees.

Magnus’ Commitment to Pro Bono Work

Beginning in 2005, Magnus Research Consultants and Magnus Graphics began working on a pro bono basis, with an excellent team of attorneys on a ground breaking case involving the treatment of mentally ill inmates by Florida’s Department of Corrections. The trial team was headed by George “Buddy” Schulz of Holland + Knight and included attorneys from the Florida Justice Institute and Florida Institutional Legal Services. The lawsuit, a 2004 federal case, was a bench trial by U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Corrigan. The case was tried in Jacksonville, Florida in September, 2008 and, on January 9, 2009, Judge Corrigan ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the mentally ill inmates who were Magnus’ clients. The attorneys with whom we worked have commended both Magnus Research and Magnus Graphics for our excellent focus group research, extensive consultative services, and high impact graphic evidence, all of which they (and we) believe had a tremendous impact in their ability to persuade the federal judge to rule in our clients’ favor. Magnus is proud to have made this important contribution toward improvements in our penal system. We are delighted to have shared in such a meaningful victory with the outstanding attorneys for whom we worked.

Always Learning

Magnus’ clients consistently tell us how much they learn as a result of their consultations with us. One reason Magnus is able to deliver fresh insights to our already learned clients is because Magnus is always working to stay on the cutting edge of knowledge in the fields of trial consultation and trial graphics.

Recently, Neal Webb, a member of the Magnus team since 1997, graduated from La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA where he earned a Master’s degree in Professional Communication. Neal chose communication as his field of study because it adds to his previous knowledge of psychology and will allow him to better assist Magnus’ clients with achieving their litigation goals. In addition to working alongside Dr. Melissa Pigott, Magnus’ Director of Research, Neal will provide witness preparation services for clients whose attorneys believe will benefit from this assistance.

Magnus congratulates Neal on earning his Master’s degree and looks forward to adding his communication skills to our already rich, multidisciplinary base of knowledge. We also invite our clients to call upon Neal, our newest Litigation Research & Graphics Consultant, to share in our good wishes for his continued success. Magnus, and Neal, stand ready to apply their knowledge and experience for your benefit.

Please contact Magnus to put our credentials and experience to work.

What to Expect from Your Jury Consultant

Jury consultants and their firms come in all shapes and sizes. Jury consultants’ expertise and credentials range from astrologers who pursue consulting as a hobby, financed by well heeled trial lawyers, to Ph.D. level research scientists who have decades of experience working on complex, high profile litigation. Attorneys who retain the services of a jury consultant should do so based on accurate information about the consultant, as opposed to mere puffery regarding unprovable “facts” such as win/loss ratios. Prior to retaining a jury consultant, the attorney should also develop an understanding about what to expect and, just as important, what not to expect, from the consultant.

In general, a competent, ethical, and professional jury consultant should provide the attorney and his/her client an open, honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of a case from a unique perspective that is different from the attorney’s. A jury consultant who adopts the advocacy position of the attorney who has retained his/her services adds little overall value to the combined skills of the trial team. Attorneys should also expect their jury consultant to respect them, their trial team, the mutual client, and the legal system, while at the same time having a strong presence of mind and personality to espouse an objective view of the case. A jury consultant who is motivated by his or her own interests, instead of the clients’, is to be avoided. (This often includes financial incentives, such as contingency fees, which call into question a consultant’s objectivity.) Also to be avoided are jury consultants who provide guarantees that you will win your case, but only with their assistance! In general, excellent jury consultants are people who are good listeners, able to synthesize voluminous information in a way their clients find useful, and provide insight to the attorney that would never have been gained in other ways. But beyond this generality, they should also be credentialed experts whose critical skills have been developed by intense training and a solid knowledge base of human decision making.

Contact Magnus: We provide “Insights for Success”® in litigation.