Concept Focus Groups
Concept focus groups help us understand potential jurors’ reaction to and sympathy for the parties on both sides of the cases, as well as the information jurors want and need to know in order to make a decision. Jurors will create a story in their minds, without regard to facts or evidence to be presented, as to what transpired in these cases and whom (if anyone) is to blame. Once they have decided on that story, information they make up to fill in the blanks is just as meaningful and credible to them as the facts and evidence presented in trial. Further, jurors filter all new information through the prism of what they have already decided. We want to know what story jurors will settle on, and how we can intervene at the earliest possible time to shape the story so the information they concentrate on is plaintiff-friendly information. Thus the focus groups allow us to understand how best to present the facts to gain the support of both the jurors.
In concept focus groups, we would present information with very little structure. We will begin simply by providing a brief description of the case (e.g. – this case involves a man who was injured by a garage door, or this case involves a man who was injured when he made contact with an overhead power line) and ask respondents what comes to mind based on that small amount of information. We get from the respondents a list of things they think might have happened (the story they begin to make up to understand the case) and what information they want to know (in what order) to learn more. We gradually build in the information, bit-by-bit, to learn how each new piece of information alters their opinion as to what happened and why. Time allowing (which it usually does), once we have discussed all of the facts we want to test, I will make a strong but brief argument for both sides and ask respondents how they would decide were they actual jurors. I generally leave the room and monitor their discussion from the observation room at this point. For each case, we would conduct two three-hour groups in one day in order to compare different approaches and story orders, as well as to confirm findings from one group to the other.
Structured Focus Groups
Depending on the information we learn and how the case develops as we prepare for trial, we may want to conduct structured focus groups at a later date. In structured groups, we present our trial story as we think best presents our case, as well as the defense version of the story. We then leave it to the respondents to discuss which version they find most persuasive and why. After the respondents’ discussion/deliberations, we debrief respondents to understand what additional information they would need to better decide how they judge the facts. Concept groups help us develop a story and understand its necessary component parts. Structured groups enable us to refine and strengthen our story once we have one.