Recent Jury Box Blog Entries

Subscribe to The Jury Box Blog

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Heat, Humidity and Trial Consulting: What Services Lawyers Use Where

What we've learned so far

To review, I posted a short survey about trial and graphics consultant usage by trial attorneys. I encourage those who have not yet taken the survey to check it out here. In my previous two posts (Post 1, Post 2), I reviewed some general trends in the data. While the number of respondents (42) precludes any concrete conclusions, the data are at least suggestive.

More experienced attorneys were more likely to report having used trial consulting and graphics consulting services at some point in their careers. This is not surprising since a lawyer who has tried a large number of cases is likely to have run across at least one along the way that warranted the hiring of a jury expert or graphics professional. In addition, litigants in high-stakes cases, where the hiring of outside consultants seems most likely, typically choose to place their cases in the hands of experienced litigators. Similarly, large firms generally assign their largest cases to their most experienced lawyers.

The second major finding is that civil defense attorneys are more likely to hire trial and graphics consultants than are their colleagues who handle plaintiffs' cases. Many of the criminal defense attorneys who participated in the survey reported having used a trial consultant, but this result is likely skewed by the large number of them who had taken advantage of my Pro Bono services. Many fewer of them reported having employed a graphics consultant.

Who Wants What When?

I was not surprised that civil defense attorneys were the primary consumers of trial consulting services. They typically have an insurance company bankrolling litigation and are more likely to have corporate clients. So, the deep-pocket, repeat-player litigants tend to be on the defense side of the ledger. 

I also expected to find that civil defense attorneys used a different mix of trial consulting services than did their plaintiff counterparts. This was not born out by the data. Consider the following graph. You can click on any graph to view it much larger.

Because civil defense attorneys make up such a large fraction of my sample, these absolute numbers are a bit deceiving. To correct for this, I converted these data into percentage of the relevant sample. The reconfigured graph is below.

Those plaintiff attorneys who reported using trial consulting services were just as likely to report running mock trials (a big ticket item) as were civil defense attorneys. One possibility is that once the stakes cross a critical threshold, a plaintiff attorney thinks just like a defense lawyer. That is, there is an "all or nothing" mentality to trial consultant usage. The other possibility is that many plaintiffs' attorneys are unaware that trial consultants provide a suite of inexpensive services, as well as conducting large pre-trial research projects. That is, a plaintiff attorney might know that she can hire a consultant to run a mock trial for $30,000, but she might not know that she can hire one to help draft voir dire questions for $1,000. This is a question for further study.

Note the frequent usage of both case evaluation and jury selection services by criminal defense attorneys. This is, once again, the product of this category of respondents being dominated by attorneys who have received pro bono assistance from me, which has taken the form of case evaluations and jury selection help. It remains an open question whether these are the services most often employed by criminal defense attorneys more generally.

Where is all the action?

When breaking the sample into regions, things got a bit dicey. With only a few dozen lawyers completing the survey, it was simply not possible to sensibly explore which regions' litigators used precisely which services. I did look into using only civil defense attorneys to investigate regional differences, but what few trends emerged mirrored those present in the full sample. I illustrate below trial and graphic consultant usage by region, without attention paid to specific services.

In considering these graphs, it is important to keep in mind the mix of attorneys represented in each region. The West, Mideast and South regions are comprised of 1/2 to 2/3 civil defense attorneys. The New England region sample is dominated by criminal defense attorneys and only contains two civil defense attorneys. The Midwest sample is entirely civl defense attorneys.

With all these caveats, are there any comparisons to be made, at all? Well, it is instructive to look at the responses of attorneys in the Mideast and South regions. The sample sizes are comparable, as are the distributions across legal specialties. Note, however, how much more likely a lawyer from the Mideast region is to report that she had never used either a trial or graphics consultant. There is one young lawyer from New York who reported extremely high usage rates for both trial and graphics services, as well as a strange mix of case types. If one drops this observation as unreliable, the differences between the two regions become even more pronounced.

Anecdotally, I know Florida, Georgia and Texas to be hotbeds of trial consultant activity. There are, however, several trial consulting firms with offices in the tri-state region (near New York City). As such, I am a bit surprised by these dramatic differences.

What next?

I designed this little survey to gather some preliminary information and motivate further study. I think that it has served to accomplish that task. I know that the Research Committee of the American Society of Trial Consultants has plans to conduct a broader and deeper study of these issues in the near future. To that end, if you have suggestions for questions to ask, lawyers groups to approach for participation or groups that would be interested in the results, please let me know. I will forward along all correspondence to the Research Committee.

While a data dude at heart, I know the value of qualitative research, too. So, if you have any questions about this survey or comments about my analysis, please do get in touch. Tell me your story. Share your concerns.

In the meantime, I will leave the survey open for further respondents. If I get enough additional data, I'll post an update here on my blog.

To those of you who took the time to complete the survey, "Thanks very much for your help."


No comments:

Post a Comment