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A Short Guide to Interviewing a Jury Consultant

Aug 17, 2007
Interviewing jury consultants is probably not high on the list of enjoyable tasks for most lawyers. Methodologies sound very similar; experience is hard to judge; and the more consultants that are interviewed, the harder it is to differentiate between them. What follows is a guide for interviewing jury consultants that will make the task easier and more effective.

1. Before beginning the interview process, ask your colleagues who they would recommend. Prior to the interviews, ask the consultants to provide a list of references and contact them. Ask other lawyers the following questions:

A. How responsive was the consultant to your requirements? Were phone calls and emails returned promptly?
B. How did the work product compare to that produced by other competitors? Did the consultant provide new insights into the case? Were the recommendations practical? Were the conclusions valid? Did you find the consultant's contribution valuable as the case progressed?

C. Was the budget adhered to? Was billing clear?

2. Before telling your consultant anything about your case, establish the ground rules for confidentiality. Ask the following question: Will the consultant keep confidential the fact that you contacted him or her?

3. When you contact a potential trial consultant, don't tell them what jury research project you want to do. Explain your problem and ask the consultant what he or she recommends. This will provide you with options you may not have thought of, and allow you to assess the potential consultant's insight into your case.

4. Make sure you establish who will be working on your project and evaluate the skills and experience the team will bring to the table. Some companies will have certain people who sell the work and others who actually do the work. Thus, you may think you are buying one level of experience based on who sells the project, but end up with a consulting team that looks very different.

Having said this, do not be too quick to reject the suggestion that the consultant makes regarding who should lead on the project. If a senior person recommends that another person in the organization is better equipped to handle your case, they may be right. Sometimes that person may be more capable and also have more time and energy to devote to your case. Just make sure that you meet that person and are comfortable with their thinking skills and creativity.

Your selection decision should be based on the quality of the consulting team as a whole, and the resources the organization brings to bear on your behalf.

5. Bear in mind the adage "you get what you pay for" may well apply. A "lower cost" proposal may not produce the quality of work you expect or need to hone your case, and may not be lower cost in the end. Be sure to get a full description of what you will be charged. Often a consultant will quote a price that seems low, but when you get the bill you find a lot of "out-of-pocket" expenses or line item charges for work product that you did not expect (e.g., analysis of data, etc.).

6. Find out what experience the consultant has with your type of case. Someone who is familiar with the issues and the law will require far less tutoring (and, therefore, less of your time) than someone who is not. They are also more likely to come up with ideas that you can actually use.

7. Although many attorneys think this is critical, it is far less important that the consultant have experience in the venue where the case is located. That's nice to have, but creativity, insight, and great analytical skills are more important. Think of your consultant as a brain surgeon--it doesn't matter where the patient is, what matters is whether the surgeon understands and can fix the problem the patient has.
About the Author
David S. Davis, PhD is a founder of and principal in R&D Strategic Solutions, a trial consultants and jury consultants firm specializing in shadow juries, jury research, and mock juries.
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