Jury consultant – a key to winning high stakes legal cases. A jury consultant works with a legal team during jury selection, a trial and sometimes post trial. In most cases, a jury consultant is hired for expert insight into human behaviour – not for knowledge of law itself.
Most jury consultants have degrees in behavioural science, psychology, social science research, law or criminology – or a combination of those. Some have backgrounds in academia, whereas others have industry or even legal experience.
A jury consultant pays attention to candidates for the jury and helps the lawyer decide which ones to choose. The consultant gives an opinion on whether those potential jurors would likely be swayed to side with the legal team. A jury consultant may help the legal team put together questions to reveal information about potential jurors.
A jury consultant may make generalizations about jurors based on profiling – age, sex, race, life experience, education, socioeconomic status and so on. But a jury consultant may also help during voir dire, checking to see if the juror’s words or body language reveal anything.
At trial, the jury consultant watches the jurors to see how well the lawyer sways them. The consultant may suggest ways to word closing statements so that they have more strategic impact on jurors.
Sometimes jury consultants also review cases with the legal team after a verdict, so that the lawyer can work on improving weak points.
Jury consultants may work with the legal team’s key witnesses, helping to prepare them for trial. They may carry out situation analysis, theme development research, witness evaluation, community attitude surveys, media surveys, trial stategy consulting and post-trial interviews. Jury research and jury consulting agencies carry out research to help with jury selection and the trial process. They make use of usual market research tools – like phone surveys and focus groups. They may even put together shadow juries – mock juries where several “surrogate jurors” represent the real jury. That way, the legal team can try out questions and facts and see how the shadow jury responds.
Of course, jurors are individuals and individuals respond unpredictably. You will rarely, if ever, see a jury consultant guaranteeing a victory, although many show up to give opinions in the media. Instead, jury consultants can help lawyers manage trial team strategy, so that they’re in a better position to sway jurors. Jury consultants can also help the media understand what’s going on in a trial – and what outcome might be expected, based on information presented at trial.
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