In almost 30 years of owning and operating Magnus Research Consultants, David and I have been fortunate to have few complaints from clients. When there have been complaints, they have been of the following type: (1) “Your report is too long and comprehensive; it took too long for me to read”; (2) ”The charts summarizing questionnaire responses were hard for me to understand”; and, most common among the complaints, (3) “I waited so long to do the mock trials that it was too late for me to change my trial strategy to incorporate your suggestions for trial strategy.” Again, I am not making this up! We at Magnus have been criticized, repeatedly, for our inability to force, coerce, cajole, persuade, threaten, etc. our clients to conduct their mock jury research in a timely manner. Neither David nor I have the ability to make our clients do anything, but this doesn’t stop them from blaming us for their procrastinating. One thing our clients have never told us, however is that they wish their jury research had been conducted at a later date. When we have clients who ask whether they should conduct mock jury research now, or wait until later, we always say “Now!” because, based on our vast experience, the sooner an attorney commissions jury research, the sooner he/she will learn important information about the strengths and weaknesses of the case. There is never, in our opinion, a reason to delay conducting jury research, particularly when delaying causes an attorney’s inability to change trial strategies at “the last minute.” Conducting jury research at the earliest possible time in the development of one’s case allows the attorney to: (1) take depositions based on what the prospective jurors want to know about the case; (2) fine tune demonstrative evidence based on feedback from the mock jurors; (3) revise case strategies based on the outcome of the mock trials and/or surveys; and much more. Although I dislike it when we receive a complaint from a client, I eagerly await the time when someone complains about learning too much, too soon, from me.
This topic is salient because I had the discussion again recently, “What is your lead time for conducting research? My client wants to put it off as long as possible, because maybe they can settle…” I patiently explained that the ramp up period, once we’ve provided a proposal, agreed on the research design, gotten approval from anyone (and everyone) involved, and been paid a retainer takes 4 to 6 weeks, give or take, to actually hold the research date – assuming everyone has a clear schedule. And, the research day is a starting, not an ending, point for our “real” work in analyzing the data which were collected on that date. Therefore, in general, there is about a 6 to 8 week time period from when we are engaged before our work product is available. (That time table can be compressed, based on various factors, but the point is, quality research takes advance preparation and post facto analysis, most of which cannot be rushed.) I appreciate that no one wants to “waste money” doing something they don’t “have to,” but, as we try to explain to clients, when they have a good grasp on the case, it is rarely too early to do the research. Due to the fact that we are often called less than 8 or 12 weeks prior to trial (or arbitration or mediation), one has to work backwards to see what we’ve described as clients waiting longer than they should have. We’ve discussed this several times from various angles, but as with all of those discussions, the research, whenever it is conducted, will give direction to the lawyers and their clients. It will create “homework” for the lawyers. It may necessitate developing other lines of inquiry, finding other experts, and, it may help achieve their clients’ desired settlement. Waiting to the last minute is not just procrastinating, it is potentially wasting time and money chasing an unrealistic outcome to the detriment of the ultimate client.