Lawyers can spend months preparing for a big trial. After completing research and putting together arguments, lawyers often use a mock jury to get a feel for the potential outcome of the trial. By testing their arguments with a mock jury, also known as a mock trial, lawyers can change or fine tune these arguments as needed based on the juries’ response. This allows them to be better prepared for the actual trial and more likely to receive a judgment or verdict in their favor. Mock trials are often used in preparation for high-profile criminal cases and civil cases with substantial amounts of money at stake.
Conducting a mock trial involves assembling a group of respondents at a research facility and assigning them as jurors. There may be several different juries in one mock trial situation, which allows for a wider sample size and more data to analyze. The juries are briefed about the case they will see, and then hear witness’ testimonies and lawyers’ statements. In addition, these mock juries also view documents and evidence pertinent to the case. While they’re doing so, moderators and clients view the proceedings and analyze the juries’ behavior. Juries often fill out questionnaires during the proceedings to gauge their reactions.
Once the final statements have been made, juries deliberate on the verdict, which is also observed by the moderator and the research client. After the verdict is reached, the moderator conducts in-depth-interviews (IDIs) or focus groups with jurors to get a better understanding of their thoughts and decision making process during the case.
Lawyers can use the information gathered in a mock trial in numerous ways to refine their approach to a case and predict a case’s outcome. They can use the data to inform their future selection of jurors, determine the strength of their arguments and evidence presented, and formulate the best case to appeal to jurors. In a civil case, the data can be used to predict how much money might be awarded in the judgment.
In contrast with most focus groups and IDIs, a mock trial generally lasts a full day. However, research clients interested in using focus groups to gather data for an upcoming case don’t necessarily have to conduct a full-blown mock trial. Smaller focus groups and IDIs are also commonly used for smaller cases.
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