While we work with many repeat clients, once, all of our clients had a first time experience hiring a trial consultant. And, these first time experiences happen on regular basis. I’ve come to realize that things which are second nature to me are foreign to first time prospects and clients. In fact, it starts when we refer to what we do as research. That’s what it is, to us, social science research. But “research” means different things to attorneys. When you are considering your first time working with a trial consultant, there are some important things to know. (This post is a short version of a to be published article.)
1) Not all consultants are equally qualified. Trial/jury/litigation consultants should be vetted. You need to hire expertise. Credentials count.
2) Your consultant needs information about your case. You, the attorney, must provide information to the consultant to facilitate a conflict check. And, your consultant should want to read case documents, and not just work from what you tell them.
3) Lead time is important when hiring a trial consultant. Lead time is required for scheduling, planning, preparing, and recruiting participants.
4) Post research data analysis and reporting after the research day takes time. The report isn’t created overnight!
5) Communication is critical. Talk to your consultant. Tell the consultant what concerns you have – don’t hide them.
6) There are different approaches to mock jury research. One size does not fit all.
7) The trial venue and research venue matter.
8) Working with your consultant takes time. But the time you will spend will prepare you for the mediation, arbitration or trial.
9) Visualizing the research day can be difficult. (Our website contains narrated videos which can be used for reference.)
10) Hiring a consultant helps ensure that you and your client understand the risks and realities of the case.
It is difficult to appreciate the many ways in which jury research, or research with other fact finders, will make an impact with a case and on your clients. I have long wished I could bottle the reactions I’ve observed when a first time client experiences this revelation. I know it is difficult to visualize the process. Hopefully, this overview will help with expectations and make that first phone call easier.
David has developed numerous aids to help Magnus’ first time clients understand what will happen before the research day, on the research day, and after the research day. The fact that many attorneys do not understand that conducting surveys, focus groups, and mock trials is research means we have a long way to go to foster understanding among our clients. As with many things related to human behavior, some prospective clients “get it,” while some require remedial education prior to retaining us. One of the hardest things to communicate to first time clients is that we must rely on them to help us so that we, in turn, can help them. For example, I read thousands of pages of legal documents on every case for which we are retained. Where do I get these documents? From the attorney, of course. Without the attorney’s provision of confidential case documents, there would be no way I could learn the facts of the case, including its strengths and weaknesses. Absent knowing what the case is about, I would be unable to help the attorney evaluate the case. Another stumbling block for first time clients is their belief that they are too busy to speak with me prior to their research day. I have something to say about that: “No, Mr. or Ms. Attorney, you are not too busy to speak with me. In fact, you must speak with me before your research day because I have some important things you absolutely need to know. Not speaking with me is not an option!”. I must speak with the clients prior to their research day because, if I don’t, they will never understand what is going to happen, how it is going to happen, and other important details that are essential for the success of their jury, arbitration, or mediation research. Once the first time attorney has participated in the mock trials, focus groups, surveys, etc. for which we have been retained, they almost always say, “Oh, now I get it! I had no idea how much work you and your team do on behalf of my client and me. I am impressed with your expertise and professionalism. This has been a wonderful learning experience!”. Too bad there isn’t a way to capture this post research day feeling to demonstrate to first time clients that Magnus knows what it is doing and we are happy to help, to the extent our clients will allow us to do so.