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Focus Group Research

Focus groups are best used to specifically define and develop discovery and case issues and refine case themes. To understand how a jury develops their story of the case. To get in-depth feedback from jurors about how they see individual evidence, testimony, and demonstrative exhibits and what they expect from witness and attorney presentations.
 
Decision Analysis specializes in a unique method of conducting focus group research. This type of research provides insight into the specific issues jurors focus on, uncovers landmines, reveals potential needed expert testimony, and alerts the client to areas of potential juror confusion.
 
We screen and recruit participants who are demographically matched to the venue’s qualified jury pool. This research is usually done with two back-to-back groups with one group of eight to twelve “jurors” in the morning and a separate group in the afternoon. This can be repeated the following day to delve into additional issues.
 
This type of methodology is used to define case-specific issues and learn how jurors incrementally build a combined story of the case from both sides’ presentations. As the jurors engage in discussion and debate about the presented case, their feedback enables the trial team to conceive of and articulate the issues from the jurors’ perspective, using their words, themes, sequence, and story of the case. The overall goal of this type of project is to study the issue-by-issue formation of juror decisions and obtain accurate feedback on how to best present the case to influence those decisions.
 
To hone in on the diverse and specific issues in the case, we conduct various types of focus groups to identify different issues. An example of these different group formats include:
 
A. In the first part of this group, we would engage jurors in a discussion about how they see the general issues in the case. This not only allows us to understand and use these attitudes, but also to start articulating the issues using the jury’s own language. The second part of the morning is then used to present the plaintiff’s/prosecution’s best case, including relevant documents, testimony, and demonstratives. We stop point-by-point to get feedback on their reaction to the case and to field questions that jurors have about the case. Then, we specifically ask them what they would expect to hear from the plaintiff/prosecution to further strengthen and clarify the evidence in their case, or what evidence they would expect to hear from the defense to address the plaintiff’s/prosecution’s allegations.
 
B. In this group, we would present an uninterrupted version of the plaintiff’s/prosecution’s case. We would then start to walk through the defense case, step by step, stopping to determine juror confusion, their fundamental reactions to the defense’s presented evidence and arguments, and discover how the defense’s argument changes their view of the plaintiff’s/prosecution’s case. We specifically are looking for the qualitative response that jurors have to the case: where they react strongly or weakly to the case presentation. We then ask them what they think would strengthen each side’s case in terms of evidence and graphics to make the case more compelling, or what they expect the plaintiff/prosecution would present in rebuttal to counter the defense’s strengths.
 
C. This group seeks to discover how to present a point-by-point rebuttal to the opposing side’s issues. Counsel would present, in a point/counterpoint session, various case issues with the opposing side’s rebuttal of those points. We would then stop to get the jury’s feedback on which of the points carried the most strength and where they had questions for either side. The intent is to discover which issues of the plaintiff/prosecution carry greater weight and what defense evidence, testimony, and demonstratives might counter or weaken the presented plaintiff/prosecution issues. We again discuss with jurors what they feel would strengthen the case on these specific issues. At this point, the goal is to also discover how to strengthen, refine, or re-shuffle the sequential order of the evidence.
 
D. In this group, we would provide a detailed list of case issues for both the plaintiff/prosecution and the defense in written form to the group. After walking them through a brief summary of these issues, we would then task them, as “lawyers” in the case, how they would best structure, order, prioritize, and argue the evidence that they have. As they work with each other to structure your case, we then push at them with the opposing side’s arguments and evidence to see how they would find ways to counter these points. This session concludes with each of our “lawyers” giving their best closing argument in the case.
 
While we have detailed four different formats, many other forms of focus groups can be designed to study various discreet and general issues in a case. This unique method of jury research anticipates the true participation of jurors in a trial: not as passive receivers of case information but as active participants in the litigation process, utilizing their experiences and beliefs to shape the way they interpret the evidence.
 
All of the groups fill out written questionnaires that detail their demographic, life experience and attitude information prior to issue presentation. Additionally, we ask them periodically to give written ratings and open responses to the evidence they are hearing.
 
The overall goal of this research is to study the issue-by-issue formation of juror decisions and obtain accurate feedback on how to best present the case to influence their decisions. This allows us to develop framing concepts, themes, and an evidence presentation structure to accommodate the optimal juror decision pattern for the desired verdict. Additionally, this feedback can inform new designations or expert opinion for trial.