Hiring an Unqualified Consultant is Like…

As I write this, David is attending a series of out of town marketing meetings. David is meeting with clients, as well as with prospective clients, in the never ending task of obtaining new business for Magnus. Even though my career is nothing new and I have been working in the field of litigation consulting for 30 years, I am constantly amazed at the absence of sophistication of some attorneys when it comes to hiring a jury/trial/litigation consultant. When scheduling a meeting with one prospective client, David was quickly dismissed with the statement, “I’m happy with my current consultant.” This, in and of itself, is understandable. Many of Magnus’ long time clients are loyal to us and, hopefully, would be equally dismissive of our competitors’ efforts to obtain their business. However, the person with whom this attorney’s loyalty lies is, to put it bluntly, unqualified to work as a jury/trial/litigation consultant. I won’t list all of the reasons for this person’s absence of legitimacy, as prior posts have covered this point. Instead, I will list some analogies of what it is like for an attorney to retain an unqualified consultant to work on important legal matters.

Hiring an unqualified consultant is like:

– having a surgical tech, instead of a cardiac surgeon, perform heart surgery;
– having a dental assistant, instead of an endodontist, perform root canal surgery;
– hiring a handy person, instead of a general contractor, to build a building;
– having a piano tuner, instead of a concert pianist, perform a Beethoven concerto in a symphony orchestra;
– having someone from the pit crew, instead of a race car driver, race at the Indianapolis 500;
– flying on a commercial airline flight piloted by a sky cap instead of a pilot;
– asking an undergraduate student to teach a graduate class in economics instead of an economics professor;
– allowing a Navy Seaman to captain a destroyer instead of an actual Captain;
– having a neighborhood watch person, instead of a highly trained police officer, lead a hostage negotiation; and
-my personal favorite, allowing a paralegal, instead of an attorney, try a multimillion dollar lawsuit.

The reader may believe these analogies are humorous, however, I do not intend for them to be funny. Instead, I intend them to be illustrative of the irony in excelling in my occupation, only to be compared with (for what seems like the millionth time) someone who, in my opinion, has no business existing as my competitor. The morals of this story are “buyer beware” and “you get what you pay for,” and “sad but true.”

This topic is a bit of a recurring one for us, in some variation. For a number of reasons, our profession has been under appreciated regarding what it means to be a qualified professional. Though many professions require credentials, qualifications, licenses, and tests, ours does not. This leaves the customer to sometimes buy from less qualified, or not at all qualified, providers. Some are vendors providing only the logistical aspects of mock jury research – leaving the attorneys to their own devices, others are charlatans with falsified credentials. In between, there are many variations, and then there is the “do it yourself” crowd. Sometimes, the customers/lawyers have been “burned” by charlatans who are so simplistic or who provide generic reports that it probably seems that if that is all one gets from a trial consultant, why bother? Other times, I know it is a matter of money – but the caution there to me is, what is the cost of doing it wrong? What if there are false positives? Will anyone recognize the biases being introduced (like from doing the research inside the law firm whose name is, literally, emblazoned on the building)? There are many differences in the quality of trial consulting. The fact that we have to continually revisit this point is frustrating.

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