Jury Consultants: To What Extent Does Methodology Matter?

Risk & Insurance had an interesting article about “scientific perspective” in predicting jury verdicts. The premise of the article is that the quality of jury consultants varies wildly because different jury consultants use different methodologies. In the litigation world, there are no barriers to entry for those who seek to be jury consultants. The only thing you really need to do is put the words “jury consultant” on your business cards. As a result, many jury consultants are “amateurs in terms of their training” to predict jury behavior.

The author believes — and I think correctly—that accident and malpractice lawyers often make choices based on who the lawyer likes (and respects) as opposed to the jury consultants’ credentials and background in the science of predicting juror behavior.

As a result, the variable quality of jury consultants leads to mixed results on the efficacy of jury verdict research. Settlement decision makers (plaintiffs’ lawyers, defense lawyers, and adjusters) often question the reliability of research when coming up with a dollar figure for dispensing with a case, and end up instead making major decisions on gut instincts (see also: George W. Bush).

The author, Courtroom Sciences’ National Director of Litigation Consulting, George Speckart, contends that these gut decisions create losses that are more expensive than the costs of scientific jury research.
In summary, the article is saying that jury consultants are a lot more reliable than most lawyers think, and if you have had poor results, it might be you were using a jury consultant who was not using solid methodology.

The author, as a jury consultant, has a horse in this race. And he casually throws out $50,000 as a number to get you where you need to be to make a prediction as to value, which I think is beyond what should be necessary. But the logic of the article is compelling, particularly for those who have had previously terrible experiences with jury consultants. For these lawyers, the author makes a suitable case that mock juries are still worth considering if you are handling a serious accident, product liability or medical malpractice case.

The real secret is that you can read a book on doing your own focus group and get amazing results for less than $10,000.

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