Spotlight on Virtual Focus Groups and Jury Research

Focus groups can be extremely helpful in gaining potential juror reactions to an array of aspects of a case. While a small research group cannot ‘predict’ a certain verdict in your case, it will be invaluable in helping determine which values, themes, hot buttons and sensibilities will resonate most in the jury room. Virtual focus groups have also proven to be very cost-effective.

Conducting Jury Research Virtually

A virtual jury research focus group can help:

  • Discover the primary juror-defined issues
  • Plan case presentation and voir dire strategy
  • Develop trial theme(s) that will strongly strike a chord with jurors
  • Determine probability of most likely outcome of the trial

A virtual focus group can answer such questions as:

  • What will a jury think of particular witness(es) and experts?
  • What evidence would have the most favorable or detrimental impact on your case?
  • What arguments and/or language do jurors respond most favorably to?
  • What do jurors need in terms of convincing evidence?

Brainstorming with participants after completion of the session will shed light on what was effective and what wasn’t:

  • The most influential evidence or argument that lead to juror conclusions
  • What evidence would be needed to change their minds?

Trial Research and Preparation

Virtual juries utilize tools and techniques that can also assist trial attorneys with trial research and preparation, including:

  • Venue/jurisdiction studies to determine community attitudes regarding the upcoming trial
  • Witness and argument preparations
  • Developing a strategy to ensure key points of voir dire strategy and trial preparation are not overlooked

The Makeup of the Focus Group

Look for a cross-section of individuals from the jurisdiction, including possible influencers who can exert influence on jury deliberations.

Participants needs to be targeted by jurisdiction. Members are generally offered incentives to ensure a wide selection pool. The wider the selection pool, the more representative your focus group.

Participants need to be fully engaged in the process. Stress to the group that their impressions and conclusions are important to the ‘fair and impartial’ process. This makes the participants feel they are key players in an important process.

Key Features and Methodology

Virtual jury research uses computer-mediated communication, collaboration and learning, informally known as online chat. This allows all communication between the participants to take place in real time.

Attorneys access the info from their computers to observe and/or participate in the virtual jury research sessions. The virtual research participants are selected based on their individual profiles, jurisdictions and other variables such as how well they match key criteria that supports the case study’s particular design objectives.

Stratified Sampling

In order to have a valid research results, the quality of the scientific sample comprised of focus group participants is critical. This means that the individual characteristics of the virtual jurors in the group should match as closely as possible with those of a hypothetical typical juror for a particular case in a particular jurisdiction.

Criteria include:

  • Personal life experiences
  • Feelings, attitudes and beliefs
  • Demographic profile

Choosing research jurors on the basis of these individual characteristics is known as “stratified” sampling.

Random Sampling

Quickly locating and securing the services of jurors with ideal characteristics from a pool of research jurors who are limited to a single venue can be a daunting if not an impossible task.

This is why standardized jury research often is conducted on the basis of “random” sampling – generating lists through voter registration, driver license applications, etc. to ensure a thorough “representative” sampling.

When group selection is not based on the demographic characteristics of age, ethnicity, sex, and so on, the group is often much less refined and methodologies do not present the same scientifically valid and meaningful research results.

With the internet and its millions of users, it makes finding higher value participants much easier.

Online Jury Research Yields Quick Results

Virtual juries provide the ability to conduct empirically valid focus group research regarding juror decisions as in conventional jury focus groups.

In the virtual focus group “deliberation room,” attorneys and jury consultants can interact with the group. The laser-focus selected virtual jurors address multiple questions designed to assess possible sentiments and concerns about the legal case. Individuals type in their responses to the questions. Responses are immediately viewable by all participants.

Through this carefully planned and conducted online research process, trial attorneys are able to spotlight the key trial issues that jurors consider most important; and then determine with a greater degree of certainty how to best present these issues in order to achieve maximum success during the upcoming trial.

Benefits of Virtual Jury Research

The virtual jury research provides similar benefits to the standard more conventional jury research trial lawyers have historically used. Results can be used to evaluate effectiveness of trial tactics and strategies, use of audio-visual aids, expert witnesses(s), as well as public sentiment regarding case issues, potential juror bias and jury verdicts.

However, virtual juries can provide numerous additional advantages — the biggest being:

  • Save time
  • Save money
  • Capture a much larger sample size

The quick results are a huge benefit. A standard jury research session can take weeks to organize and administer. With virtual jury research there are literally millions of potential case study participants available online at all times. Research jurors can quickly be identified, located and solicited to participate. They can participate with little effort via their personal devices.

As a result, online research can be organized and conducted within hours instead of days. This rapid turnaround is invaluable – saving both money and time – allowing parties to quickly evaluate and strategize cases that are headed for trial.