Trial consultants were not widely utilized until they became famous during the O.J. Simpson trial. They have since become an integral part of the trial preparation team. A trial consultant can be useful for jury selection, preparing witnesses, trial presentation graphics, trial strategy and more!
Consider these qualifications when searching for a suitable trial consultant.
An Understanding of the Legal/Judicial System
While many trial consultants have degrees in psychology, sociology, criminology and other non-legal fields, they should have experience in and be familiar with the judicial system and pre-trial, trial and post-trial procedures. They need to be aware of upcoming deadlines and the flow of litigation, especially if they are being contracted from the outset of the case.
Jurors connect more easily with a well-told story. Your trial consultant should be able to help your team shape the story of the case by outlining the background information and “characters” and showing how to explain the context of the issues. The consultant should be able to help your attorney tell the story in a way that is relatable to the jury.
Early on, many “trial consultants” were solely jury consultants. The selection of a jury is typically a task that is outside the comfort zone for most attorneys and really a part of the trial that can use the advice of a psychology expert. The consultant should be able to help with voire dire and the vetting of jurors by helping the legal team eliminate the biased jurors. A successful trial consultant will perform online jury research (even using social media) and will give advice regarding the potential jurors after observing their body language and hearing their comments to questions posed during voire dire.
A properly educated consultant will also be able to assist with the preparation of witnesses by giving them more confidence, helping them to overcome communication barriers and anticipate questions from opposing counsel. A good trial consultant will also be able to help a witness present as more likeable and credible to the jury.
A trial consultant with sociological experience will be able to successfully assist with many of the pre-trial projects such as mock trials, focus groups of potential jurors and gauging public opinion. A successful trial consultant will have a good understanding of human behavior and will be able to help the legal team understand the case presentation through a potential juror’s eyes. For example, what would a potential juror think of the mannerisms of the attorney as he instructs the jury? How will the star witness be perceived? The right trial consultant will advise the team on the likability, believability and credibility of the witnesses, the defendant/plaintiff, the presenting attorney and the evidence. They can also point out the preconceived notions that a potential juror might have to overcome in deciding the case in your client’s favor.
So you have all the evidence ready to go but can’t figure out how to present it in a way that actually looks good? A trial consultant with IT expertise will be able to help you format a visually pleasing presentation (PowerPoint!) in a well-organized way that will enhance the argument. A well-presented argument can sway the jury in your client’s favor. The trial consultant will also be able to assist with the technological components of the presentation (projector, software, etc.) at trial so your team will have one less thing to worry about.
The right trial consultant will be able to help the communication-challenged lawyers. The consultant should be able to assist your attorney in the opening and closing arguments to help the point come across clearly to the jury. They can also offer assistance in delivering those statements including using the right body language and timely pauses and emphases in the speech.
A good trial consultant doesn’t stop working when the verdict has been rendered. Your consultant should follow up with jury members to discover what worked and what didn’t work. They should also be able to assist your team with preparing the case for appeal, if necessary.
More and more cases are being settled rather than being taken all the way to trial. A successful trial consultant will also be able to assist with mediation and arbitration. Some actually perform mediation and arbitration services while others assist with preparing the case for settlement, preparing witnesses for depositions and helping attorneys prepare the arguments.