On numerous occasions throughout my career as a jury/trial consultant, prospective clients, not to mention family members and friends, have asked me if I have ever worked on a “big” case or a “difficult” case. I used to bristle when asked this question, due to its implication that I am not intelligent, experienced, or good enough to work on a big, difficult case. Nowadays, I take things in stride and I answer, politely, that none of Magnus’ clients has ever hired us/me for an easy case. For example, if someone is involved in a rear end fender bender accident in which her car was damaged by a drunk driver who sped through a stop sign, neither the plaintiff’s attorney nor the defendant’s attorney need our help. That type of case, with clear liability and damages issues, never requires the time and monetary investment of a jury/trial consultant. On the other hand, a complex intellectual property case, with many nuances not easily comprehended by the average person on the jury, is the type of case which begs for my company’s and my help. On every case in which Magnus has been retained in our decades of business, the clients have retained us because of the difficulties and challenges inherent in the case. The cut and dried cases get settled, often before they become lawsuits, leaving the most challenging cases for people like me to figure out. When I am asked whether I expect to have any difficulty understanding how to fly an airplane, in order to consult on an airplane crash case; whether I can comprehend the intricacies of a complex patent case involving competing technological components; or whether I can “handle” working on a high profile securities case, involving multi millions of dollars of investments; I inform the person asking this question that I have “been there and done that” many, many times in the past and yes, indeed, I am ready to take on their case. No one, absolutely no one, needs me for anything that is easily figured out, leaving only the most challenging cases for me to decipher.
The fact that we are called on to work on large, difficult, challenging, and unique cases is one of the intellectual thrills of working as trial consultants. And, what were once challenges are not as intimidating as they might have been years ago. The money involved in some of the cases is part of the “big case” phenomenon; it is a significant part of what defines “big case.” And, the money can be big on cases with rather simple fact patterns. Sometimes, what makes the case difficult is the posture of the parties, the plaintiff(s) or defendant(s). If either side is so entrenched in their position that they cannot consider that the other side “has a case” then mock jury research can change this perspective. More often though, difficult cases involve unique fact patterns, new and developing issues, high profile issues or clients, as well as lots of money. Of course, when the case is criminal, the defendant’s risk of incarceration is a big factor. We’ve been fortunate to work on cases that were technically difficult – that is, difficult to explain “mechanically” when describing how something worked, or failed to work. We’ve worked on newsworthy cases and cases that no one would ever want to read about in the news because the issues were boring – except to the litigants. It is these things that are intrinsically rewarding and keep us engaged in a fascinating look into how problems are solved and decisions are made.