My previous post outlined the reasons why online “mock jury” research is not in reality “mock jury” research. In this, related, post, I will discuss additional constraints and limitations of online “mock jury” research. I will also add that I have concerns about confidentiality with online research. Confidentiality is more than just having a confidentiality agreement signed. With online research, controlling the ability of the participants to capture information through such things as screen shots, or the use of, for example, a cell phone camera, is minimal. Further, putting the information “out there” on the internet creates hacking risks, or the risk that unauthorized persons are in the room with the participant.
I mentioned earlier the client who had reasons for doing online research that didn’t really make sense. Well, that client said her team was spread around the country and that they wanted online research so that all of them could observe. My takeaway from that is it was more important for this prospective client to conduct the research in a way convenient to her team, without regard to whether that was the most effective way to evaluate the case. We, at Magnus, are all about making things convenient for the mock jurors. When presented with this type of “our team is spread around,” it seems to us that a better answer is to either let the team watch the videos we record at a later date or set up a webcast for the observers, but to still use a traditional group of people to ensure the integrity of the research. We can, and do, often use pre-recorded video arguments, but we present these to actual groups of jury eligible residents of the trial venue (unless on the rare occasion we need to utilize an alternate venue for one of a few reasons which are beyond the scope of this post). To do otherwise introduces many uncontrolled variables that, ultimately, may undermine the research, all in hopes of saving a few dollars. I suppose I should finish by saying I’ll never say never. Maybe there are circumstances where very carefully constructed online research would be useful. But, in doing so properly, it is doubtful that this is a “cheaper option” than live mock jury research. Consumers of online jury research services should carefully evaluate whether there are so many short cuts being taken that the process undermines the question of evaluating the case.
David is passionate about this topic! It was the longest post he has ever written since we have been blogging in June, 2013, and it was so long, it had to be broken into two parts. David’s second part of the posts on online “mock jury” research pertains to a crucial, but often overlooked, aspect of the type of work we do: confidentiality. The cases on which Magnus is retained are high stakes, complex, and contentiously litigated. No one has ever retained Magnus for a rear end, fender bender case and I doubt any one ever will! Because the stakes are high for all the parties in the case, it is imperative that our work remain known only to our clients and the Magnus staff. Just as we require all our vendors, facility staff, and mock jury recruiters to sign confidentiality agreements on every case prior to conducting any work, all of our mock jurors and other research participants sign confidentiality contracts; are asked to affirm, verbally, while being video recorded, their agreement to the signed confidentiality contract; and are sent a reminder letter reminding them of the confidentiality agreement they signed. How, might I ask, would we be able to maintain this level of control and confidentiality if we were to conduct online “mock jury” research? The answer is, of course, that it would be impossible. As for clients who are more concerned about watching mock jury deliberations from the convenience of their office, instead of traveling to the trial venue to observe everything in person, we have tried and true methods of doing this that do not involve conducting online “mock jury” research. Fads come and go in every part of life, and online “mock jury” research is certainly faddish, but Magnus prefers the tried and true approach over other methods.