There is a common misconception that a focus group is limited to the mock jury format, also known as an adversarial focus group. In such a group, the room is set up like a courtroom, complete with a witness chair, counsel tables and jury box. Each side then delivers an opening statement, witnesses give live or video testimony, each side delivers a closing argument and then the mock jury deliberates.
The mock jury is a great type of legal focus group, but it’s not the only one.
There are over fifty types of legal focus groups, with varying pros and cons. As an injury trial lawyer specializing in witness prep, focus groups, and case consulting, I recommend the following five options. These focus groups are easier to assemble than a mock jury because they do not require multiple presenters, take less time, and do not require a specific room configuration. I’ve also found that participants give more individual feedback if they are not required to reach one group conclusion or decision.
Five Types of Simple Legal Focus Groups
Features a simple, straightforward presentation of the facts followed by straightforward, open-ended questions. For example, what do the participants think happened? What more do they want to know?
The participants will provide you with their gut reactions to your case. You or a moderator can guide the discussion to identify immediate, glaring issues and obtain feedback on what could be used to fix these issues. For example, would the case benefit from additional facts or a photograph from a specific angle?
First, set up the facts of the case chronologically. Present it visually, by drawing it out or using a basic PowerPoint slide, then ask for open-ended feedback. For example, what do the participants think happened here? Is anything missing? The timeline can used for medical treatment, or only contain liability facts.
You will gain insight on the clarity of the timeline and identify places in your case where more is needed. More importantly, you’ll discover where less is needed. Not every fact is needed to win the case. The participants can identify the vital facts, and why they are vital.
3. Opening Statement
Read the opening statement for the case. Ask participants to discuss what they thought happened. Was any part confusing to them? What more would they want to know?
This is a great exercise for lawyers because it forces them to organize the evidence and assemble it into a case theme. The lawyer collects direct opinions about their ideas, the evidence and the case.
4. Witness Credibility
Using video depositions, create 4 – 6 minutes clips of key witnesses and show them to the focus group. Follow each video with simple questions like: Do you believe this person? On a scale of 1-10, how credible is the witness? What was your first impression?
Having credible evidence is key to any case. In this type of focus group, you will see firsthand verbal and nonverbal reactions to witness testimony, which provides crucial insights into a case’s strengths and weaknesses.
5. Jury Instructions/Legal terms
Put one legal word, legal phrase, or jury question up on a dry erase board or PowerPoint slide. Then, ask participants to provide their own definitions and examples. What have they heard previously about these terms /questions?
The lawyer gathers the words and phrases the participants used to explain the legal jargon. These terms can be paired into opening statements, used in questions to witnesses and echoed in closing arguments. The lawyer will see how much confusion or clarity exists in the general population as it pertains to the legalese. If the group is confused by a term, the lawyer should prepare to explain more; conversely, if the group is clear on a term, the lawyer can avoid over-explaining and talking down to their jury.
The above are but five types of focus groups available. These different options showcase how short, simple focus groups can dramatically improve your case.
Want to learn more about how different types of legal focus groups can enhance your case and which is best for you? Call (512) 893-5700 or click below to schedule a strategy call.