Techniques of pre-trial research

Mock juries/deliberation groups

During the screening process, Focus Group Respondents are scientifically recruited based upon both trial venue demographics and attitudes to ensure that every group is both demographically and attitudinally mixed. On the date of the session, presentations are made to Respondents which may also include live/videotaped witness testimony. These presentations, highlighting both side's positions, are followed by the jury charge and group deliberations. During deliberations the Respondents are left unattended to reach a decision concerning the key issues of the case. The trial team observes the proceedings through a video or a two-way mirror.

In addition, carefully crafted written questionnaires are utilized at various stages of the process to evaluate whether views have shifted as a result of group interaction. Individual Respondent's proposed civil liability verdicts and damages awards or their individual pronouncements as to a criminal Defendant's guilt/innocence and/or death penalty issues, are elicited before group deliberations commence. Written questionnaires provide in-depth and meaningful insight into the typical juror's case interpretations and the impact of witness testimony.

After deliberations, the moderator and litigation team conduct a follow-up discussion(s) with the group(s). Evidence, not presented but clearly needed to convince Respondents, is fully probed. Questions are asked and answered. Additional evidence, that may or may not be admitted at trial, can be offered and explored at this time - the purpose being to gauge the impact this additional evidence might have upon the verdict.

All research is then analyzed in accordance with social science techniques and principles. Prosecution/Plaintiff-leaning Respondents are compared with Defendant-leaning ones. A thorough analysis reveals which variables were relevant or irrelevant to the particular case. Pertinent strategies are then designed that would be persuasive to jurors at trial.

Moderator-lead concept focus groups

The function of Moderator - Lead Concept Focus Groups is to probe basic attitudes, beliefs and opinions to determine how a jury might view a particular case. The main features of this pre-trial methodology are that (1) the format is structured and (2) the session involves a moderator - lead ongoing discussion among Respondents. The two-way interaction examines the case issue by issue.

The focus group is recruited as described above. On the date of the session, a "bare-bones" scenario is introduced. Over the course of the session, additional facts are offered to gauge impact. As each new bit of information is added, the moderator elicits reactions from the Respondents. Members of the trial team observe the proceedings through a video or two-way mirror. At any time during the session, the trial team can request that the moderator follow-up certain aspects of the case for further exploration by the focus group(s).

Mini focus groups

This pre-trial research methodology allows for more than one case to be critiqued and evaluated by Respondents during a single session. Each separate case is presented and assessed for approximately 2 - 3 hours. The entire length of time required for the session would depend upon the number of cases to be assessed. The main objectives of the Mini-Focus group process are to (1) identify and develop basic themes for two or more cases which would convince a jury and (2) determine case value for civil matters or (3) decide criminal case issues.

A typical session would involve the recruitment of one or more focus groups to hear all of the cases. The essential elements/issues per case would be offered to all groups, gathered together in a room set up theatre-style. After one case is presented, the group(s) would separate for deliberations and/or a moderator-lead in-depth discussion. The focus groups would then reassemble to hear the second case and separate again for deliberations and/or discussions. Members of the trial team observe all proceedings through a video or two-way mirror.

Mock trials

Mock trials are the most comprehensive technique used in pre-trial research. They differ from Mock Jury/Deliberation, Moderator-Lead and Mini-Focus Groups in that they provide a full dress rehearsal for the trial team, allow witnesses to practice their entire testimony and provide Respondent reactions to all issues, facts and the law.

Mock trials may be conducted in one eight to ten - hour day or over the course of several days. Evidence can be presented by live witnesses, videotape depositions, actors and/or detailed attorney presentations. This format provides for almost unlimited tests of various strategies.

Demographic/ venue Surveys

Demographic/Venue Surveys assist the trial team and litigants in understanding the broad issues operating in a particular geographic area and how people would react to them. Surveys are particularly useful when the case involves issues directly affecting the community where the trial is located or when issues have wide public exposure. There could be local pressures, conditions and situations creating questionable influence upon prospective jurors. Surveys are a good methodology to employ in order to ferret out these harmful attitudes and biases, including the impact of media coverage. In addition, Demographic/Venue Surveys can be particularly useful when a change of venue is sought.

Entities such as the government, insurance companies, the legal system,, etc. can be tested quantitatively (100 - 1000 or more interviews) to assess related attitudes and biases. Jurors' core beliefs can be obtained on a regional/county basis concerning the general issues involved in a wide variety of legal cases including medical malpractice, personal injury, products liability, employment discrimination, commercial litigation, toxic torts, criminal, etc. This data, obtained through telephone questionnaires, can pinpoint the connection between potential jurors' local biases, psychological make-up and demographic characteristics, thus minimizing guesswork in jury selection. Results can also help trial attorneys develop strategies for dealing with both general and case-related juror predispositions.

Consultation

The firm's team of consultants utilize their expertise and experience to consult with trial attorneys and their clients to determine fact-finder issues and case themes, conceptualize demonstrative evidence, determine legal issues that will be confusing or critical to the fact-finder and pinpoint other pertinent matters that are essential in the pending civil or criminal case.

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News

  • BDI Acquisition

    June 22, 2017 - Schlesinger is excited to announce the acquisition of BDI Research, a research services company with facilities in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain.

  • 360 immersive video

    October 14, 2016 - Introducing 360° immersive video for focus groups. The system features 360° cameras that put observers at the center of the conversation, creating a whole new experience for observers and compelling video for researchers.

  • Young Professionals Grant

    September 5, 2016 - Schlesinger has once again collaborated with the QRCA to fund the Young Professionals Grant to give young qualitative research professionals the opportunity to attend the QRCA annual conference.

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