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Adding Virtual Jurors to the Pre-Trial Research Toolbox

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 19, 2015 6:59 AM

Want to see how your products liability defense will go? Need to test out a malpractice claim before bringing it before a jury? In the good old days (that is, yesterday and before), there was a fairly established approach: call in a jury expert, poll the public, maybe run a mock trial.

But now, virtual juries are beginning to replace, or at least supplement, traditional juror research.

The Benefits of a Practice Run

Juror research, whether traditional or virtual, can help improve the outcome of a case. Trial attorneys, who have spent months if not years immersed in a case, are at risk of becoming overconfident in their positions, or letting jargon creep into their arguments, according to Dahlia Fetouh and Christopher Land, attorneys with Goodwin Procter. Jury research, particularly mock jury exercises, can help detect potential errors before they show up in court. Attorneys can practice their presentation, refine their arguments, and target their messages.

But it's not cheap. You must gather mock jurors who'll need to be compensated for their time, devote attorney hours to trial practice, and often pay for expert jury consultants to guide the whole thing. Even "affordable" approaches, like phone surveys or focus groups, can leave clients complaining over cost.

Enter the Virtual Jury

Virtual juries can help reduce cost by querying data that already exists or quickly putting together online focus groups. There's no need to bring together a mock jury of stay at home dads and unemployed college grads when "virtual jurors" can be consulted. One new virtual jury app, QuickLook by Vinson Resolution Management, looks at a "2000+ member online jury database" to provide quick, cheap-ish (a report costs $15,000) insight into potential jury responses.

QuickLook isn't the only virtual jury service. Online survey platforms like OnlineVerdict and eJury accomplish similar goals, polling mock jurors online to see how they will react to different presentations and strategies. These services allow you to control for a mock jury's demographic, socio-economic, and political makeup, without being limited by the mock jury pool in your area. Anyone in the nation can take part, so long as they have a computer and a willingness to earn $5 to $60 answering questions online.

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