When scheduling mock jury research, I deliberately search for boring places where we can work without distraction. Sometimes, this is not possible, however, I try hard not to work in hotels or market research facilities with tempting amenities. Tempting amenities provide too many distractions for our mock jurors (and sometimes, to our clients) that have led to tardiness and other bad behaviors that interrupt the research process. Amenities to be avoided, based on my experience, are: the beach; casinos; malls; parks; hiking trails; and any other places where the mock jurors can disappear. The hotel pool, tiki bar, lobby lounge, and other sources of distraction are hard enough to manage, but when a hotel in located on a beautiful beach, I hope for rain! Or better yet, snow! Anything that keeps the mock jurors from focusing their attention on the reason why they are being paid to work will, in my view, not be in my clients’ best interests. For this reason, I prefer to work in a nice hotel or market research facility where we can keep the mock jurors on task, without any distractions. Alas, this is not always possible. There have been many occasions on which we have worked in places that afford opportunities for the mock jurors to get into trouble, including the time they joined the conga line at a wedding reception instead of returning from their break! The occasion that inspired this post, however, happened a few years ago when we were, once again, working in that special city called Miami. On this day, our clients were not nice people and they were incensed to be kept waiting by a mock juror who was tardy following what was intended to be a 5 minute restroom break. As usual, when someone fails to return to the mock jury at the time I instruct everyone to be in their seats, ready to go, my employees searched high and low for the missing mock juror. In this case, the missing person was an expensively dressed woman in her 50s. Tired of waiting, the clients instructed me to resume the mock jury research without this woman and further, they told me that she was not to be allowed back inside the conference room where we were holding the mock trial in the event she ever returned. I acquiesced, and we resumed the attorneys’ presentations without further delay. You can guess what happened! Just when one of the attorneys was making a dramatic point about the case, our missing mock juror burst into the conference room, holding a large bright pink shopping bag from the jewelry store across the street from the hotel where we were working. She had gone shopping during the break without any regard whatsoever to the time constraints that had been placed on all of the mock jurors, including, of course, her. Needless to say, the attorney who was making the presentation was livid; she stopped mid sentence to tell me to get rid of the mock juror immediately. When I escorted the woman from the room, she still had no remorse for ruining the mock trial; instead, she showed me the lovely jewelry that caused her to be late. Some people, it seems, have no regard for how their bad manners and disregard for others impact those around them.
It is frustrating how much time, and shoe leather, is wasted searching by these oblivious souls. We were all sweating this one, it was a big case, with the head of a major law firm as lead lawyer and the head the firm’s litigation department as the “opposing” lawyer for the day. Plus, their clients were present – the General Counsel for a Fortune 500 firm and the head of litigation for that firm as well. Clearly, the stress level was high for everyone; the additional distraction of the juror who went missing was almost too much. Then, to find out it was as trivial as going jewelry shopping (okay, I may get in trouble for calling jewelry shopping trivial) was really aggravating. I think she wanted to spend her payment as a mock juror – before she received it – and she did. Adding insult to injury, we ultimately paid this mock juror something for her time with us – less than full pay, but something to create a binding contract to maintain confidentiality. We feel like charging the mock juror, rather than paying them, in these cases. We don’t have the ability to hold them in contempt of court, but their behavior is contemptible! But, the show goes on and we move on from town to town – just like Bad Company sang on “Movin’ On” way back in 1974.
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