Recently, Melissa and I have been talking with a long time client about an issue we have, and he has, identified as being a challenge for us, and him, as a trial lawyer/mentor. That is, the “new generation” of litigators/trial lawyers lack experience with trial consultants. In a recent, eye-opening, conversation that included his young associate, the associate asked“what is a trial consultant?”. In some ways, this question takes me back to my early days in the trial/jury consulting business, and my attempts to craft an “elevator” speech to explain what we do. At that time, trial consulting was new to many lawyers, though it had been around for 1 to 2 decades by then. As I considered this recent discussion, I thought about the milestone marketing changes we’ve experienced in 30+ years in the practice. As I mentioned, early on it was explaining what we do, the services we offer, etc. This was something done in person, on the phone, and through the U.S. mail (sending brochures, etc.). Along the way, we developed a website that essentially placed our brochure online where people could find it, usually when directed to it, searches came a bit later. Over the years, we’ve struggled with the label given to us “trial” or “jury” consultants. The next big hurdle was with the development and growth of alternative dispute resolution, including mediation. We then faced attorneys who said uninformed things like “I don’t need a jury consultant because all/most of my cases settle.” In response, I explained that most of our cases settle also, but they do so after research when there is a “benchmark” for settlement. (https://magnusinsights.com/benchmarks-for-lawyers-part-1/& https://magnusinsights.com/benchmarks-for-lawyers-part-2/). Today we’re seeing the next evolution of the impact of ADR, which is the lack of trial experience and trial preparation experience in younger attorneys, leaving them under prepared to utilize the resources which are available to them. In a way, we’re back to where we were 30+ years ago, in explaining what we do. But, in another way, given the focus, and sometimes over focus, on ADR case resolution, the learning, or unlearning, starts in a different place. We’ll continue to address the issue with marketing, and with education, hopefully regarding the latter, with a combined presentation this summer with the attorney client/friend with whom we lamented this state of affairs.
The current generation of associate attorneys and their lack of awareness of the existence of trial consultants reminds me of the years I worked as an adjunct professor. (As a side note, for many years after I earned my Ph. D., I had 2 jobs, a full time job in the corporate world and a part time academic job.) My students, particularly those I taught at a public university, were mostly bright and eager to learn, however, they were taking my classes to learn about the subject matter. They were, in many instances, learning things that were new and eye opening to them, even though they were “old news” and matter of fact to me. Many times, my students thanked me for showing them a new way of thinking about the world from my perspective as a social psychologist. They found my “real world” experience working for a large corporation instructive in applying what was being taught to everyday life. Newly minted attorneys have the same expression on their face when I explain how jury eligible citizens are likely to view their case. It’s as if I am seeing the light bulb turn on when they finally understand what I am telling them! Unfortunately, as David mentioned, today’s world of litigation does not provide as many learning opportunities for inexperienced attorneys as in the past, producing uninformed lawyers who cannot begin to appreciate how much they are missing, how much they did not learn in law school, and how much assistance from people like me that is available to them. I will continue to forge ahead, educating both experienced and inexperienced attorneys about the benefits of working with a trial consultant, in the hope that I continue to make a difference in people’s lives. Class is in session!