In writing about the window of opportunity for trial consulting, I reflected on who are our “best” clients, and why. Our best clients are the attorneys who “get it” – who understand what we do, what goes into it, and what they will get out of it. But, how do they know these things? They have done it before – they took the first step and hired a trial consultant, hopefully us, for the first time. But, why did they do that? Many of them have reported to us that they had previously been surprised by a jury trial result. They won a case they expected to lose, or more commonly, they lost a case they should have won. They contact Magnus because they never want to have that happen again, if there is a way to avoid it. So, while not foolproof, they conduct mock jury research. Over and over again, mock jury results are often not what the attorney or their client expected in some way. Things may be better or worse, or maybe they will confirm perceptions, but mostly, the results point to details which need more or less emphasis, or different information. But, I digress. The point of this post is that the best clients know they don’t know it all, and they know it is a mistake to pretend they do. As a result, our clients tend not to be young, or new attorneys, who, even if they have a case warranting jury research, perhaps have not learned this hard lesson.
Despite what many people believe about themselves, it is impossible to know everything there is to know. A “know it all” never knows it all! Not to mention the fact that “know it alls” are rarely the most popular people! I have been working as a trial consultant for a very long time; so long, in fact, that I make what I do appear effortless to the casual observer. Many attorneys have mistaken my calm self assuredness for simple mindedness, believing that, if I can perform my job effortlessly and flawlessly, then so can they. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reason I excel at what I do is because: (1) I went to school for a long, long time (getting a Ph.D. takes a whole lot longer than getting a law degree, by the way); (2) I have conducted research in the area of psychology and the law for a long, long time and I have numerous publications on the subject; and (3) I have been working as a litigation/jury/trial consultant for a long, long time, including conducting research on thousands of jury eligible citizens, for hundreds of attorneys, and involving billions of dollars in claims. There are few people, my social psychology colleagues included, who have as much experience doing what I do and there are a total of zero attorneys who have my educational and experiential background. All of this is to say that my kind of client is the attorney who is an expert on the law and who respects and values my help because it is outside his/her expertise. Knowing what one doesn’t know can be just as valuable as knowing what one does know.