Are Virtual Juries An Effective Jury Research Method?
In general, conducting pre-trial jury research to assess how the jury will perceive a case is common practice amongst trial attorneys. Specifically, jury research results may be used to forecast case worth (and thus to determine whether to accept a settlement offer or go forward with trial), or to formulate a trial strategy (including jury selection and case presentation). Traditionally, pre-trial jury research has been conducted in person using mock jury trials or jury focus groups. In recent years, technological developments have allowed attorneys to conduct modified versions of these studies over the Internet with "virtual" juries. Are you thinking about engaging a virtual jury for your case? Or, have you been selected as a virtual juror? If so, you should consult with a lawyer to learn about your rights and responsibilities.
What advantages are offered by conducting jury research online?
There are a number of websites that offer virtual jury services, allowing visitors to complete personal profiles in order to be considered for participation. Depending on the budget and desired level of detail, attorneys can present a case to a demographically- selected sample jury in a format similar to a traditional mock jury trial or jury focus group. Usually, participants will observe presentations of evidence from both sides-either by watching videos or reading summarized facts-and submit responses to a series of questions prepared by the attorneys.
Moreover, although the price can vary with the extent and provider of the service, virtual jury research is more cost effective than traditional jury research methods. Because the convenience with which participants can fulfill their virtual jury duties renders it relatively easier to recruit virtual jurors, attorneys are able to test a case to a larger sample at a lower cost than is possible with research conducted in person. Thus, even lower-budget cases can benefit from online jury research, and a wide range of results can be generated in a matter of days.
Does this mean online jury research will totally replace traditional jury research methods?
Although, the relative convenience and affordability of virtual jury research may seem promising, certain inherent limitations in conducting research online leave some attorneys preferring the traditional, in-person methods. As a general matter, virtual jury research lacks the personal, face-to-face interactions offered by traditional methods, and thus can be less accurate at predicting actual behavior. In addition, the inability to control virtual participants and information, raises pre-trial publicity concerns. Specifically, because it can be difficult to verify a participant's identity, or to ensure compliance with confidentiality agreements, there is a relatively high risk that information will be leaked to the media or the other side before trial.
In sum, regardless of the method employed, pre-trial jury research can be an effective tool for predicting how the jury might react to a case. For more information about whether virtual jury research is an appropriate method for your case, you should consult with an attorney. At our law firm, we assist clients in legal issues relating to the Internet and emerging technologies. You may contact us to setup a free consultation.