Conducting mock jury research, or other research involving human participants, involves many things unrelated to collecting data. Food and drinks are an important part of the work we do on behalf of our clients. Not only do we compensate our research participants for their time and effort in attending our mock juries and focus groups, we provide food and drinks to them. They spend many hours working with us on our cases and it would be both thoughtless and improper to mistreat them by withholding food and drinks from them. Some of Magnus’ clients have not understood the consequences of failing to hydrate and feed our research participants and this lack of understanding has caused considerable difficulty for us over the years. One of our clients was a large agency associated with a governmental entity. When the attorney who was our primary contact reviewed our proposal, he explained to David that this agency would not authorize any food or beverage to be provided to our research participants, despite the fact they would be working with us for an entire day. David was astonished because we know no one, absolutely no one, would agree to serve as a mock juror absent being provided with breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner, depending on the time of the research project, not to mention snacks, coffee, tea, soft drinks, and of course, water. David patiently explained this truism to the client who, being a clever attorney, eventually found a way to include the mock jurors’ food and beverages in another part of the contract. On other occasions, we have had attorneys who were in private practice (as opposed to employed by the government) ask us not to provide any food to the mock jurors as a cost savings measure. One attorney, who happens to be wealthy and with whom I have enjoyed several fine dining experiences, objected to the huge mark up for refreshments at hotels and market research facilities. Although I agree the price for a below average sandwich, bag of chips, and a cookie should never be more than $10.00 or so, I live in the real world where we never pay as little as $10.00 for any food at the places where we work. The hotel’s or market research facility’s mark ups are a cost of doing business; in our case, mock jury research. I explained to this client that: (1) the mock jurors would never attend the research if they were not provided with sustenance; (2) there are no hotels or market research facilities that allow “outside food” to be brought into their conference rooms; and (3) in the grand scheme of things, a few hundred dollars for food and drinks was a minuscule expense in the litigation budget. I explained, further, that we would have a near riot on our hands if the mock jurors were hungry and thirsty and that, if this happened, they would never be able to concentrate on the case. In addition, as a psychologist, I cannot subject my research participants to this type of maltreatment. Reluctantly, this client agreed to pay for the mock jurors’ food and drinks, but over the years, we phased out of working on his cases. Feed the mock jurors! Always!
I’ve previously written about my experiences as a photographer and having inconsiderate clients who did not think to provide me with a dinner on a job that lasted 6 to 8 hours (see Feed the Photographer February 2019). The amazing thing to us, with regard to the mock jurors, is how something like lunch or dinner became, in these instances, such a focal point of our planning and negotiations. We are not in the catering business, but planning meals and refreshments is a necessary part of our job. Because food is such a basic item for human survival, the fact that clients would object to providing it never occurred to us. Mock jurors are “captive” for the time they are with us, to release them to find lunch on their own, even if we paid for the meal, would totally disrupt the day. Therefore, we have to provide at least a “boxed lunch” to make the process efficient. Fortunately, these inconsiderate clients are rare but we have learned, especially with governmental clients, to ask whether there are any contracting restrictions on such basic details. Lesson learned, but still we are amazed.