The crown jewel for any consulting firm is the firm’s ability and capabilities in a courtroom
assisting attorneys with jury selection. Some lawyers believe that their experience makes them
much more qualified to select a jury than any trial consultant. These are the same lawyers who
are unwilling to do the post-verdict interviews when a jury returns an unfavorable verdict. Anyone
who had the privilege and honor to have Cathy “Cat” Bennett as their trial consultant will tell you
that a truly qualified trial consultant is an invaluable asset in any litigation in which the lawyer
wants to win. Trial consultants should not be measured by how many degrees they have received,
the number of mock trials or focus groups they have conducted or by the size of their company.
Instead, the best trial consultants in America are the ones who are knowledgeable of the law (so
they can talk the lingo with the attorneys and understand the legal issues), have the ability to read
people and body language, and, most importantly, are willing to take a position even if it means
disagreeing with the attorney.
The age, education, or gender of the trial consultant means far less than the ability to read people and the commitment to being a trial consultant. There are several questions we encourage lawyers to ask the trial consultant they are interviewing for work:
1.) How long have you been a trial consultant;
2.) How many cases have you been at counsel table to actually pick the jury;
3.) What do you bring to the courtroom that other trial consultants do not; and,
4.) Why did you become a jury and trial consultant?
We have constantly maintained that jury selection is predominantly art...not science. We were recently involved in a case where a large corporation was a defendant in a class-action lawsuit. Our job was to prepare a juror questionnaire and voir dire questions and to assist the lawyer with jury selection. One of the first things the lawyer said was, "Don't spend too much time on the juror questionnaire because the judge is never going to allow us to use one." We prepared a three-page juror questionnaire and, to the lawyer's surprise, the judge said that he had always wanted to experiment with a juror questionnaire and that this lawyer was the first person to ever bring him one. After reviewing the juror questionnaire, we found that one of our jurors wrote that she had, "been caught shoplifting at the Defendant's store.” The lawyer immediately wanted to excuse this juror for cause, but was convinced to withhold judgment until we found out how the juror felt the company treated her and how that experience affected her life. The lawyer was comfortable asking the juror the first question, but refused to ask the latter. After reviewing her questionnaire and watching her throughout the course of jury selection, we convinced the lawyer that we should take a chance on this juror and keep her. It was our sense as trial consultants that her experience with the company was a life changing event that she had turned into something positive instead of something negative. The lawyer thought we were crazy, but he agreed to keep her on the jury. (He realized that if the verdict was bad, he could blame it on Cathy E. Bennett & Associates, Inc.) The result was that the jury found in favor of our client. In talking to the juror afterwards, she told us that, in fact, the shoplifting experience had been something that was a very positive experience in her life. The point is that the trial consultant is there to draw on his or her experience, training and intuition. He or she must have the courage to disagree with the lawyer regarding who should be struck peremptorily or for cause.
The cost of a competent jury and trial consultant to assist with jury selection varies widely. At Cathy E. Bennett & Associates, Inc., the cost ranges from $1,500.00 to $8,500.00 per day, depending on the consultant and the length of jury selection.