I have been involved in several focus groups wherein we focused all the issues we could think of in the case at the time. These sessions can be exhausting. There are other kinds of focus groups where specific aspects, issues, or problems, of a case may be focused in a relatively short time and with little expense.
More Information Never Hurt Anybody
In one exhaustive focus group session involving an automobile accident case, the attorney’s knowledge of the case was severely tested. He realized that he needed to go back and read the reports, depositions, and statements much more carefully. Additionally, he found that the theory that he was so enamored with had little sex appeal with the focus group and he wisely changed the entire thrust of his case.
In another focus group session, I felt that the jury instructions were confusing; and did not state what I felt the common perception of the law on that subject was. If a jury instruction is confusing to a lawyer, just think what it did to the lay people on the focus jury! It was very interesting to get their interpretation of the jury instructions and their language terms for use at trial. One of the best things about focus groups is that lawyers who use terms like “products liability” without thinking about it learn what our fellow citizens think of when they hear those words. Then, at trial, the lawyer can talk to the jurors, not at them.
A Critical Resource
Focus Groups are important to bring to the forefront of the attorney’s mind deconditioning questions for voir dire. In one medical malpractice focus group I watched, jurors brought out issues regarding the plaintiff’s failure to get a second medical opinion. I did not feel that the second opinion issue existed in the case because the plaintiff never had a chance to get a second opinion, but those focus jurors thought it was important. A trial attorney could defuse a time bomb in voir dire with a few innocuous questions, or guard against such sabotage with cross examination or direct testimony.
Don’t Be Fooled
Everybody I talk to says they do focus groups. But when I ask them when, where, who, etc., the familiarity seems to evaporate. Focus groups have been conducted on a wide scale in commercial settings, and it is rumored that the insurance companies have commissioned focus group studies on publicity campaigns regarding tort reform. Plaintiff’s attorneys should stop whining about tough juries. Focus groups help you figure out how to, as Howard Nations of Houston, TX says: “Ride the pony!” If you do not do focus groups, you will never be able to find the pony, let alone ride it.
What Do You Have to Lose?
Focus groups can be performed in as little time as an hour and for as little as a few hundred dollars. It is sage advice that you should never try to perform your own case at a focus group. I have done that and felt that the results were compromised and untrustworthy. Call me for a consult and a fee estimate. You will find that the focus group is a necessary prerequisite to every case you handle, not only every trial.