In this type of group, after hearing a short neutral case summary from the facilitator, participants hear brief (30-60 minute) presentations from a plaintiff and a defense attorney. These “clopening” presentations are like a combined opening and closing statement and can include key exhibits or very short video-taped witness statements. Participants are then given a simplified verdict form or “decision worksheet” to complete and left on their own to deliberate the case while the trial team watches via closed-circuit TV or one-way mirror. After an hour or so of watching these deliberations, the facilitator joins the mock jurors to focus their discussion of the case on key issues and areas of interest to the trial team. Panelists also record their individual thoughts on final individual verdict forms after the group deliberations.
Such groups are excellent tools in providing the trial team with a “reality check” on verdict expectations, finding case strengths and weaknesses, developing voir dire strategy and opening statement themes and language, as well as providing an opportunity to test out and refine exhibits, test the effectiveness of key witnesses and get reactions to key documents and evidence.
Additionally, the preparation for these groups, in which the trial team is forced to distill their case to a 30 to 60 minute summary, can often be extremely effective in helping the team begin to focus their case themes and story to the most essential elements needed to win. Because the attorneys are also presenting the case to the mock jurors, this type of research also gives the lawyer a chance to stand up and talk about their case with real people before doing so at trial or mediation.
Typically this type of group lasts four to six hours. Depending on the length of the study and the facility used, a large group will hear the presentations and then be divided in two for deliberations, or one panel can come in the morning, another in the afternoon, allowing for modifications to the presentations for the second group.