We consult on cases of every size and budget. While mock trials may be out of reach for some cases, every case can benefit greatly from a few hours spent on case analysis, jury selection, witness preparation, or opening statement development. We will always discuss fees openly with the goal to advance the case value by multitudes.
Case Framing & Analysis
Every case has problematic facts. Some of these facts are apparent, while others may require a mock jury or an expert to reveal themselves. In either instance, you need a strategy to address the issues in the case. Bringing nearly two decades of experience to the table, we can identify problem areas in your case. Then, we work with you to re-frame the case to either embrace or work around those problems.
We begin by breaking the case down to find all possible issues from a juror's perspective. We then work with you to re-build with a much stronger, more cohesive focus that will address the weak points. Sometimes, your worst facts can become your best allies if the case is structured correctly. We will talk about how to handle issues head-on in voir dire, what arguments to incorporate into an opening statement, how to approach your expert witnesses to give more solid answers, necessary graphics, and how to weave your theme throughout trial.
Opening Statement Development & Strategy
If the case goes to trial, we can help develop your opening statement. Every part of your opening should be a deliberate choice for a distinct purpose or strategy. Winning jurors over by the end of opening statements is crucial. When jurors formulate beliefs about the case, that belief persists and becomes stronger. All evidence is viewed through the lens created by that initial leaning. Evidence that contradicts the juror’s belief is either dismissed entirely or altered. Conversely, evidence consistent with the juror’s belief is accepted, further solidifying it. Therefore, opening statements are imperative in creating a lens through which jurors view the rest of the case.
We can draft an opening statement that will address jurors’ belief systems and present the strongest theme, allowing jurors to see the rest of the evidence in a favorable light.
Whenever possible, trial should not be your test run. You need to know what laypeople think of your case so you can address the concerns ahead of time. Whether this is done through an attorney-conducted focus group (in which case you need to become educated on how to do these correctly - my free guide is available below) or by hiring a consultant to conduct a full mock trial, you should never skip testing your case. Litigation experience can never replace the multitude of (often shocking) information gleaned from talking to jurors. Regardless of how many mock juries we run, we never cease to be amazed at how jurors view a case. When conducted properly, jury research will reveal holes in the case, which the consultant can then address. In addition, you learn which pieces of information are important and which are irrelevant to jurors. Often, jurors dismiss what attorneys see as the most central facts and cling to issues that may not be in evidence. You need to know this to shape your trial strategy. Mock trials can also be helpful for testing exhibits and the effectiveness of your client and witnesses.
Conducting a mock trial is a science. While attorney-conducted focus groups can be helpful in the early stages of litigation, there are many pitfalls to doing them “correctly,” and the adage “garbage in, garbage out” applies. Focus groups conducted without certain checks and principles can yield information that is more harmful to the case than helpful. For this reason, I have created a free resource for attorneys wishing to learn how to run their own focus groups correctly. You can access and download this guide HERE.
Voir Dire & Jury Selection
Effective voir dire requires a delicate balance between establishing trust, searching for jurors who harbor attitudes and beliefs that will be harmful to your case, and introducing your themes. Being too overly zealous can result in jurors losing trust in you. There is an art in getting jurors to open up, connect with you, and answer candidly. Question format and wording matter greatly. We can help draft voir dire questions that elicit truthful, useful information. We can also attend trial to identify leaders, read body language, look into juror backgrounds, and help you de-select the worst jurors for your case.
The effectiveness of your voir dire is reliant on your ability to get jurors talking and then solidify cause challenges. We often are hired to help select a jury, yet due to poor questioning, we end up not having enough information about juror attitudes to be of service in deciding whom to strike. Even when we help to draft the voir dire questions, delivery matters. When the opportunity arises, you need to know how to lock a juror down for cause to protect against rehabilitation. These skills need to be practiced ahead of time to prevent wasting voir dire time and money spent on a jury consultant.
"Voir Dire Coaching" is a simplified focus group to practice voir dire. We bring in one or two sets of mock jurors and allow you to ask questions with our interruptions to make corrections. We record the session so that you can review it at your convenience. While we recommend you do this before each trial, the skills you learn in only a few coaching sessions will significantly increase your effectiveness in every case. These can be conducted over Zoom if travel is an issue.
Finally, we offer social media and background searches on jurors. The information revealed in these searches can help form a more complete picture of the juror and sometimes reveal hidden information that can result in a cause strike or a mistrial. Background searches can be performed the morning of trial, though the more time we have before trial to delve into a juror's social media outlets, the more helpful the information will be.
Where allowed, post-verdict interviews are the chance to see where things went wrong and prepare for a retrial. Without talking to jurors, there is no way to understand what theories or arguments were ineffective, leading to an unfavorable verdict. Jurors are often reluctant to give open, honest answers to attorneys involved in the case. When we conduct interviews as a neutral party, jurors feel comfortable opening up and will reveal their true beliefs about the case and your presentation. Sometimes we find information that can lead to a mistrial in your favor. Asking the right questions is integral to getting helpful feedback. Once we have completed the juror interviews, we can help you reshape your case strategy for a new trial.
We help attorneys navigate mediation in two different ways:
First, we believe in running pared-down focus groups and mock trials before mediation. In a legal climate where 93% or more of cases settle, your income as an attorney depends almost entirely on settlement results. Therefore, you need to prepare for mediation like you would a trial. Part of that entails doing a better job than your opponent at showing what jurors are likely to do with the case if it does go to trial. To a great degree, mediation is all about what is likely to happen at trial and what jurors might do with your case. Instead of settling blindly, we use feedback from jury research to guide and propel your mediation forward. We present case information to a group of mock jurors and ask for written feedback, followed by a set of individual Zoom interviews with select jurors. The juror feedback will give you a sense of both problems and strengths of the case. If the results are favorable, you walk into mediation with a written report from us detailing the research and results along with sound bites from favorable jurors. If the results are not promising, you never mention the study, but the feedback can guide you in determining what settlement to accept and potentially save you from a loss at trial.
Secondly, we work with parties in mediation where both parties intend to settle but are too far apart to agree. If both parties agree, we do a mock trial working on behalf of both parties. Costs are shared, and the results often fuel settlement with knowledge of what jurors are likely to do with a case.
Whereas attorney-conducted witness preparation focuses on the content of direct and cross, we focus on the demeanor of the witness and in how they can be more persuasive both verbally and non-verbally. We work with nervous, angry, and guarded witnesses/clients to calm them by addressing their fears and taking time with them to find truths they can carry with them to the witness box. We can perform short-term miracles on how clients present by changing the way they feel about their circumstances. We also work with both the attorney and the witness to find more persuasive ways to tell the witness’ story.
In family law, more so than in any other area of law, the way your client presents drastically impacts the case outcome. Divorce and custody trials are short; the judge relies on the believability and likeability of the parties and a few facts and the opinion of a child evaluator (which also hinges on how the client presents). Therefore, the way a client testifies is often central to the outcome of a divorce case. Traditional witness preparation focuses on facts the client should know, topics
to avoid, where to look when talking, and how to dress. When a client comes across as anxious, depressed, a victim, angry, or bitter, traditional witness preparation often fails to correct or address these behaviors. Telling a nervous witness to "slow down" may work for a short period, but their nerves will get the better of them, and they will inevitably speed
back up. Unless we delve into why the witness feels anxious and reframe their mindset to bring down the anxiety, they will be incapable of testifying any differently. The key to effective witness preparation is to work on altering the witness' internal emotional state, thereby allowing them to testify in a manner that is consistent with winning their case. First, I work with the client and the attorney to uncover the root cause of their emotions. By reframing their story, the client's emotions shift. This shift impacts the way the client presents. Although the client would need an analyst or psychotherapist to create long-term changes, the work we do together will last long enough to make it through a hearing, child evaluation, deposition, or trial and have a tangible impact on the result.