Over the past few months, I’ve been doing a deep dive into the discipline of jury research.
For my final post in this series, I’d like to explore the “next generation” of jury research projects (so to speak): online jury research. While the pandemic accelerated the adoption of online jury research projects (many litigators now prefer online jury research because of the time and cost savings involved), DecisionQuest® has been conducting remote jury research all along – long before the pandemic started – which makes us one of the most experienced team of consultants when it comes to virtual jury research.
For those who continue to doubt the power and efficacy of online jury research, let’s debunk four of the most pervasive myths.
Myth #1: Technology troubles can make online jury research exercises ineffective
Whether a focus group, mock trial, or other jury research exercise, many people worry technical difficulties when remote will impact the exercise and make the results unusable. DecisionQuest® has come up with best practices to minimize technical errors that can arise during an online jury research project.
With virtual jury research projects, one way to prevent technical issues is to pre-screen mock jurors before the project. During this pre-screening process, the team can help ensure the mock jurors have the necessary equipment and internet access to participate in the study. The team can also make sure the mock jurors are comfortable with and are able to navigate the online platform used to do the research. All of this helps the online research run smoothly.
When conducting online research, another best practice is to recruit more people than needed for the project. Despite best efforts during pre-screening, on the day of the project, a mock juror may be having internet issues, or they might just be having a bad day. Having extra participants enables you to excuse people having technical or other issues, which helps keep projects on schedule.
Myth #2: People do not pay as much attention online as they do in person
Even when listening to presentations on a computer in their laps while in bed, yes, jurors pay attention. How do we know? After nearly a decade of conducting online jury research, we know because they are required to be on camera the entire time. They answer lots of questions that everyone needs to complete before we can move on, and they discuss the case during deliberations in a robust manner. Not everyone is equally in tune, but that is true of actual in-person jury deliberations, too.
When I go to in-person trials, with real juries, some jurors fall asleep. That happens. It happens with in-person research projects, too. You get enough people together watching a presentation, and somebody might nod off. In an in-person project, we can walk up to them and, you know, kind of wake them up, but, obviously, this isn’t the case with virtual trials.
But I do think we have a better ability to resolve the falling asleep problem with an online jury research project because we have more eyes on the jurors than with an in-person research project.
Let’s say we’re doing a two-group research project. You have me and another senior consultant who are going to be doing the deliberations with the groups at the end of the day. Then, you’re going to have one or two analysts, and then between two to four people from the DecisionQuest® online team. And we communicate with each other during the research project and we’re all keeping an eye out to ask, “is anybody falling asleep?” or “is anyone having technical troubles?” If they are, someone will pick up the phone and call that person directly. In the end, we know if they are paying attention because all the jurors must answer numerous open- and closed-ended questions about the information they heard during the case. I am always amazed at how well the jurors can follow the facts of even a very complex patent case.
Myth #3: Online projects do not have the same level of confidentiality as in person
This is simply not true. If jurors are screened effectively, there is a low chance that anyone with any knowledge of the case and connections to it will participate. Jurors accept the terms of the confidentiality agreement and any protective orders and do not keep any documents they have seen or any notes they have taken—in fact, a good researcher will make sure that participants tear up their notes online. As with in-person research projects, fake names can be used when the conditions require those techniques.
Myth #4: Online jury research projects do not have the same validity as in-person projects
Validity refers to the extent to which the study really measures what it is supposed to measure. Achieving validity involves, in part, working with the attorneys to create a strong case for our side—and an even stronger opposing case. The same process used to create a valid in-person project is used to create a valid online project. This includes paying attention to what we refer to as “the recruit.”
Recruiting the jurors is equally important for in-person and online research, which is why we use the same recruiting methods, including making sure the demographics are representative of the venue, avoiding convenience samples such as those found through volunteers on Craig’s List, and using professionals whose specialty is using the jury consultants’ specifications with their databases. We match demographics so that we get an appropriate mix of age, race, and socioeconomic groups of those in the venue.
Jury research conducted online is a valid way to measure juror reactions to your case and possibly provide data about which kinds of jurors are favorable/unfavorable toward your case. Like in-person research, online research has appropriately screened jurors; has time allotted for sharing materials or presentations with the jurors and collecting data; and has been used repeatedly by our research team to successfully assess the strengths and weaknesses of cases. There are differences of time and cost, and there may be unique reasons to utilize in-person sessions over online.
No matter online or in person, conducting jury research can make you smarter about your upcoming case and better prepared for trial.