Focus groups are an everyday aspect of our life. Major corporations, politicians, and broadcast media all have been using focus groups for years to hone their messages to consumers, voters, and viewers. So, why not put together a focus group to frame a case to a jury? The purpose of this lecture and the materials provided with it is to introduce the reader to the concept of focus groups, and to explain how one can easily-and economically-put together a focus group.
WHAT IS A FOCUS GROUP?
A focus group is: “a small group of people whose response to something (such as a new product or a politician’s image) is studied to determine the response that can be expected from a larger population.” The members of the focus group are brought to a single location, and provided with information about the product, person, or idea. They are asked for their opinions on that product, person or idea.
WHY USE FOCUS GROUPS?
A focus group is unlikely to give an accurate prediction of the ultimate verdict in a given case. However, the focus group is useful to give the attorney guidance on the values, hot button issues, and sensibilities that the jurors will bring to their decision-making. The focus group is going to be helpful in demonstrating what evidence is important to the jurors, what jurors think of a witness or party, and what parts of the “story” resonate in a positive fashion.
Here are some examples of where a focus group might help an attorney at trial:
- Attorneys representing a large company in a products liability case may want to hold a focus group to determine how the juror views the client. Do potential jurors perceive that company as having a good safety record? Providing quality products? Or do they see the company as a “bad citizen?” (i.e.: putting cheap products on the market, having a reputation for poor customer service, etc.)
- An attorney who represents a motorcyclist injured in a crash may want to know what a potential juror’s perception of the type of person who rides a motorcycle is. Can the attorney overcome any negative stereotypes of motorcycle owners to obtain compensation for his/her client?
- Attorneys representing a defendant in a high-profile criminal case. Has the public made up its mind as to the guilt/innocence defendant? What news reports/articles most influenced the group’s opinion? If there is a valid defense, can the jurors’ negative image of the defendant be overcome?
- Attorneys trying a complex contract case. How can potential jurors follow the transaction? In what ways can the transaction be made easy to understand?
The Law Offices of Jeffrey E. Marion is available to attorneys to convene focus groups and road test case theories at trial. Go to www.jeffmarionlaw.com for more information, or contact me to schedule a free consultation.