Innovative Use of Focus Groups

October 29th, 2010
By: Jonathanshin

A few of my close colleagues and I have been using focus groups to great effect for many years.  In a focus group, both sides’ positions are presented in what amounts to a hybrid between an opening statement and a closing argument.  The focus groups are composed of a scientifically-chosen panel of 12 or 24 mock jurors.  We use an outside vendor to select the mock jurors.  They reflect the demographic composition of jurors in the location in which the case is pending.  After the presentations, we watch the mock jurors deliberate from behind a two-way mirror.  The deliberations are videotaped for future use and reference. 

Generally, we “focus group” a case whenever the amount in controversy exceeds $500,000 and the case will likely go to trial.  We have conducted elaborate focus groups like those used during Presidential debates where dials are used to test our themes and theories in “real time.”  More frequently, however, our focus groups are quite simple, and cost about $3,000 to conduct (excluding lawyer fees).

Focus groups are useful for many purposes.  They allow us to develop and test trial themes well before trial when we have time to make appropriate adjustments.  Clients who attend our focus groups see first-hand how our opposition will present their case, and how the jury will react to the competing trial themes.  This is often an eye-opener that helps the client to realistically assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case.  We also use focus groups to identify those jurors we want on the jury and those we should excuse from the jury.  Finally, we have used the results of focus groups effectively during mediation to persuade our opponent of the strength of our case.  In two such instances, this tactic resulted in settlements totaling $3.5 million.

Please contact me if you want more information about how our firm uses focus groups to the benefit of our clients.

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