Litigation Research Projects

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SCI Research recognizes the complexity and uncertainty that often face attorneys as they prepare for trial. We offer tested and proven assistance through our litigation research services, and ensure a smooth and worry-free process, from recruiting and moderating to facility rental and hosting. We maintain the largest focus group facility in Louisiana, with three rooms configured for your use. Our traditional focus group room is set up conference style, behind one-way glass. We have two other focus group rooms that can accommodate between 20 to 50 jurors. Your staff can observe the deliberation of mock jurors from behind the glass, or on live streaming video monitors with wireless headsets in our comfortable observation room.

Benefits of Litigation Research

Conducting pre-trial research with mock jurors exposes both the strengths and weaknesses of a current litigation strategy in the eyes of the most important audience: the typical juror. The only constant when dealing with juries, which are made up of a variety of different residents of a specific area, is that each juror is going to have a different view based on his/her unique life experiences. Within the same jury, one juror can be utterly unconvinced by counsel's argument, while another will wholeheartedly believe it. SCI will organize a focus group and/or mock jury trial to test your themes and arguments before you step foot in front of an actual jury. Our research can provide a glimpse into how an actual jury is likely to perceive those issues critical to your success.

Recruiting the Right Mock Jurors

Litigation research projects are similar to all of SCI's research projects in that the MOST important thing we do is ensure your group is comprised of the right participants. Through jurisdictional research and demographic statistics, we can guarantee that the mock jurors in your survey project, focus group and/or mock trial will be of a similar makeup to those comprising your actual jury pool. Recruiting respondents is the just the first step to fielding your litigation project, but is crucial as it affects the remainder of the research. The ability to measure and evaluate the decision-making process of mock jurors who represent your venire can prove invaluable. Gaining this insight can improve your level of success, as well as help you to make informed decisions concerning voir dire and other important facets of your case.

For example, with a properly recruited mock jury panel, a trial team can identify a typical juror's background (i.e. education, employment, income, etc.), community knowledge and attitudes, and even uncover prejudices, all of which are critical factors in understanding your audience (the actual jury pool).

SCI has been conducting research in Louisiana and the Gulf South for almost 27 years, and has unparalleled expertise in recruiting individuals for qualitative research projects. Our "show" rates (the rate at which recruited participants actually appear for a group) are higher than average, contributing to our reputation as a company that performs as promised.

Project Options

Because every case is unique, we offer many options that can each be tailored to your individual needs and budget. All litigation projects in our Baton Rouge facility include facility rental, recruiting, hosting, and basic refreshments. However, we also provide facility rental and hosting services only for those clients who wish to handle their own recruiting.

Quantitative Research Projects

Mock Jury Survey Projects

Documents: Close-ended survey questionnaires
Deliverables: Report, to include topline with graphs, and cross tabs

This research method is highly effective in obtaining case feedback from a large number of individuals in your venire. The participants are stratified in the same manner as focus groups and mock trials, and thus, percentage-wise, represent a typical jury pool. This project can be conducted at any time before trial, but can be especially helpful in the early stages of the case before discovery is complete.

Typically, the number of participants is large, ranging anywhere from 50-200, all of whom report to our facility on the same day in evenly distributed groups. Each participant receives a case folder containing a summary of plaintiff's argument, a summary of the defense's argument, and another of plaintiff's rebuttal, along with any jury instructions and printed exhibits. Short, live presentations of key evidence and/or video clips of witness testimony may be added to the presentation. After a short case introduction, participants review each argument as instructed and complete the corresponding questionnaire. Upon completion, each participant is given a cash incentive for his participation. The length of these projects varies depending on the number of participants recruited and the length of the case information and questionnaires.

As in jury focus groups and mock trials, SCI consultants collaborate with your team to design clear and concise questionnaires to elicit the most actionable data. Our sophisticated in-house survey software program compiles the questionnaire data, which we use to create reports, complete with visual graphs. Our reports provide insight on participants' reactions at every stage of their decision-making process regarding the items tested (i.e. arguments, issues, exhibits, and if included, witnesses and jury instructions). We also prepare a cross-tabulated report showing the participants' demographic information alongside their responses, which is helpful in both the voir dire question development phase as well as during jury selection.

Conducting survey research in the early stages of litigation helps shed light on the issues that jurors understand and those in need of further clarification. This information can be used to develop case themes and to help streamline trial strategy in support of those themes. Ideally, these survey projects are used in conjunction with a subsequent jury focus group or mock trial once discovery is complete and teams start preparing for trial.

Community Attitude Studies

At SCI, we believe that creating the most effective argument or presentation begins with knowing your audience, which is where we shine. In addition to working with your team to develop probing voir dire questionnaires designed to disclose mock jurors' private attitudes, beliefs, and experiences, we often perform community surveys to test a broader sample of the jury pool.

Through these studies, we measure individual and community awareness, as well as identify juror predispositions to issues and themes specific to your case, including the parties involved. Trial teams learn how pre-existing bias can affect their potential jurors' opinions and decisions, and can even use the findings to help identify favorable and unfavorable juror characteristics to aid in jury selection.

Qualitative Research Projects

Mock Jury Focus Groups

Documents: Moderator Guide
Deliverables: DVD recordings; transcripts available upon request

Jury Focus Groups are usually conducted after discovery is primarily complete, and the trial teams begin preparing for trial. While we can adjust any facet of a focus group to meet your specifications, they generally consist of two group sessions, each running approximately two hours and consisting of 6-8 participants recruited from your venire. The groups are led through a discussion of case arguments and themes by our experienced litigation consultants using guides collaboratively created with your trial team. Unlike the questionnaires in survey projects, the moderator guides and questionnaires in focus groups are designed to elicit lengthy open-ended responses in order to uncover local bias and potential prejudice, and to assess jurors' understanding of both general legal concepts and case-specific issues. The group usually concludes with a discussion of how jurors would render a verdict, and on what evidence they based their decisions. If damages are involved, jurors will also be asked to calculate the damage award they feel is warranted, either through discussion or a written verdict form. Attorneys can observe the participants' reactions and feedback live from behind the one-way glass in our client lounge, and later from the DVD recording available within minutes after the groups' conclusion. Transcription service is available upon request, and usually deliverable no later than a week after the groups' conclusion.

Jury Focus Groups are often used to:

  1. Identify prejudices and/or biases in your jury pool;
  2. Refine trial strategy/presentation;
  3. Evaluate participants' grasp of key case issues and concepts; and
  4. Gain general idea of case value (also helpful in settlement negotiations).*

* Focus groups can also prove invaluable in avoiding unnecessary litigation. Attorneys can make an informed decision based on participant feedback regarding the likelihood of a successful verdict and of general case value.

Core services included: 1) consultation and planning; 2) participant recruitment; 3) facility coordination; 4) moderating services; 5) participant incentives; and 6) moderator guide. Those jury groups held in our Baton Rouge facility also include light refreshments and audio/video recording.

Mock Jury Trials

Documents: Voir Dire Questionnaire; Plaintiff Questionnaire; Defense Questionnaire; Witness Questionnaire(s); Discussion Guide and/or Jury Verdict Forms
Deliverables: DVD recordings; Reports with analysis of questionnaire results; transcripts available upon request

Before trial in any civil case with a high value judgment at stake, attorneys would most benefit from a mock trial. The expense of conducting a mock trial is significantly outweighed by its value. A mock trial benefits the whole trial team, from the presenting attorneys to the IT professionals, as they all prepare for the mock trial like they would for an actual trial. However, mock trials call for even greater preparation as the team must present both sides of the case with equal proficiency.

Through experience, we've learned that the most successful trial attorneys are those who jurors perceive as credible, likeable and trustworthy. As such, SCI always tests these characteristics through its questionnaires and guides. Mock trials offer the perfect opportunity for trial attorneys to hone their presentation skills and define those characteristics that will give them an advantage, while identifying those which may unknowingly be setting them back.

Our team organizes the mock trial (i.e. acquiring the venire and representative mock jurors), creates and programs questionnaires (electronically when at our facility) and the moderation guide, and is available to assist in preparation of trial exhibits, including PowerPoint presentations, trial timelines, and whatever is needed for both sides of the case.

All of SCI's mock trial options offer the same core set of services: 1) consultation and planning; 2) mock juror recruitment; 3) facility coordination; 4) moderating services; 5) mock juror incentives; 6) questionnaire, moderator guide, and screener preparation, and; 7) reporting and analysis. Those mock jury groups held in our Baton Rouge facility also include light refreshments and audio/video recording.

In addition to the benefits of jury focus groups, mock trials have many advantages:

  1. Test voir dire screener's effectiveness in identifying juror bias and prejudice (understanding your audience is crucial for effective communication);
  2. Evaluate attorneys' presentations, including opening and closing arguments and themes, to determine which resonate best and which need improvement;
  3. Gauge the effectiveness of visual and demonstrative exhibits, as a majority of people are visual learners;
  4. Evaluate witness testimony while under the stress of a simulated courtroom environment;
  5. Test proposed jury instructions;
  6. Obtain jurors' interpretations of key points, as well as their general level of comprehension of critical issues; and
  7. Help establish a dollar range for the settlement value of the case.
Mock Jury Trial Options

Although SCI can custom-create a mock jury project, we've found that most of our clients prefer one of a few project designs. SCI has therefore tailored and finely-tuned the following three for your benefit:

  1. 4-hour double (simultaneous) mock trial
  2. 6-hour double (simultaneous) mock trial
  3. 8-hour double (simultaneous) mock trial

The most popular options among our clients are the four and six-hour mock jury trials. Clients can use their allotted time however they choose. Usually, each side presents an opening statement (45 min to an hour each) to 20 mock jurors at once, after which the jurors complete electronic questionnaires evaluating the presentations. The same format can be used with respect to live witness testimony or video deposition clips, depending on time allocated. Jurors can then be broken into two groups for simultaneous deliberation. Some attorneys prefer to spend more time on case presentation, including closing arguments, and in lieu of full deliberations, elect to have our jury consultant lead the full jury through guided moderation. The four and six hour groups can provide in-depth analysis, allowing you the freedom to evaluate important facets of your case, to include, but not limited to: voir dire, opening statements, themes, exhibits, key witness testimony, closing arguments, jury instructions, and verdict forms.

The eight hour groups offer the most flexibility, allowing for a complete mini-trial experience, during which all facets of your case may be tested. In addition to everything tested in the four and six hour groups, the eight-hour groups are extremely useful for evaluating complex legal issues, testimony of multiple witnesses (live or through deposition videos), graphic presentations, and jury instructions. Attorneys may use the extra time however they wish, and often opt to issue detailed jury instructions and allow for longer juror deliberations.

SCI will organize a pre-trial litigation project to test your themes and arguments before you step foot in front of an actual jury. Let our research provide a glimpse into how an actual jury is likely to perceive those issues critical to your success. Contact us today or click here for more information.

Post-trial Interviews

Unless specifically prohibited by law,* either side of a case may contact jurors after the trial to discuss the case, a particular issue, or the lawyer's trial performance. As only jurors can provide insight on deliberations (as well as the case aspects that affected deliberations), conducting post-trial interviews is the best way to capture such crucial information. Thus, attorneys would do well to tap into this wealth of knowledge when available, but must be careful to avoid even the appearance of juror harassment in the course of their inquiries. Because harassment and criticism in such interviews also have the potential to color the juror's decisions in future cases as a juror, allowing SCI to conduct the interviews can be the safest option. Our experienced interviewers know that these tactics (condemned by the ABA and LSBA) are not conducive to an open and frank discussion, and will conduct interviews in a positive, objective manner carefully avoiding criticism of the jurors and their verdict.

Useful in learning:

  1. The issues jurors understood
  2. The issues they failed to comprehend or were unsure or confused by
  3. The issues jurors deemed most significant as well as least significant
  4. Their impressions of witnesses
  5. Their impressions of attorneys
  6. To what extent these impressions influenced their decision making process
  7. To identify any turning points in case
  8. On what they based their ultimate decision
  9. Most and least effective demonstrative aid, exhibit, piece of evidence
  10. Bias in the panel not disclosed during voir dire
    1. Was there anything noteworthy that attorneys failed to learn about a juror?
    2. Was there a juror who demonstrated personal bias (and should have been excluded during voir dire)?
    3. If so, did the biased juror affect the verdict?

In addition to the educational aspect of these post-trial interviews, information gathered may support motions for new trial or appeals. If evidence of misconduct (whether on part of jurors, court officials, legal teams, or third persons) is found, attorneys may be able to use affidavits or testimony of witnesses, including jurors, to challenge the verdict's validity.

Where pre-trial litigation research is crucial in presenting your best case possible, post-trial interviews are equally beneficial in preparing for future trials. These interviews shed light on what jurors did and did not understand, which case aspects they deemed relevant and why, which witnesses impressed them and why, their perceptions of attorney presentations, and a profound glimpse into their group decision making process. Additionally, these intercepts can supply invaluable material for upcoming jury selections, and can reveal evidence of misconduct.

Because post-trial juror interviews can be conducted for relatively low costs, especially if only a few jurors are polled per panel, they quickly pay for themselves by providing wiser, more insightful tactics for future cases. If they provide evidence to support a motion for new trial or appeal, then the value is even greater.

* In the 31st JDC, Parish of Jefferson Davis, parties are prohibited by law from contacting jurors directly or indirectly except on leave of court granted upon good cause shown. If leave is granted, jurors are prevented from disclosing information regarding other jurors' votes, the deliberations of the jury, and evidence of improprieties in the jury's deliberation. See Rules of the 31st JDC, Rule XXII.

* In the 29th JDC, Parish of St. Charles, absent an order of court, no juror shall be interviewed by anyone at any time concerning the deliberations of the jury. See Rules of the 29th JDC, Rule X, sec. C.

Reporting

Ultimately, SCI will assist you in creating and designing a jury group research project that will yield the most actionable information available. The data gathered during your group(s) will give your litigation team informed insight into the minds of potential jurors, helping you to intelligently and effectively mold and refine your case presentation. Each project concludes with a detailed and tailored analytic report that provides demonstrable recommendations.

Price Information

SCI's jury research projects are generally priced per project. Some aspects of a jury group, included in the project price, are passed along directly to our client without any administrative or other fee by SCI, including participant incentives.

As the above options may not meet your individual project needs, we invite you to contact us to discuss your specifications. For detailed and formal information about pricing, options, and availability, please contact us by submitting a quote request at https://ssl.sciresearch.com/request/ or by calling us at 225.928.0220 or 800.695.0221.