Online Mock Trials vs. In-Person Mock Trials: Pros and Cons

Dec 6, 2023 2:24:40 PM by Kristi Harrington
Online Mock Trials vs. In-Person Mock Trials: Pros and Cons

Mock trials are a valuable tool for attorneys to evaluate how a jury may react to their case. With the growth of technology and in response to the global pandemic, online mock trials have become increasingly popular and may be a better fit for your jury research needs than the traditional in-person mock trial.  In this article, we will explore some of the benefits of online mock trials and in-person mock trials and discuss why one format may be a better choice for your particular case.

Benefits of Online Mock Trials



One of the most significant advantages of online mock trials is the convenience for everyone involved. Online mock trials can be conducted from anywhere, eliminating the need for travel and lessening scheduling conflicts for counsel and clients. With the rise in technology, even the most non-technical attorney in your office can participate in the online process. Considering the increase in working from home and with clients in different time zones, an online trial can accommodate most schedules with ease.


Online mock trials can also be more cost-effective than in-person mock trials. Without the need for travel or a physical location, the costs associated with the mock trial are significantly reduced. Not only is this a positive benefit for the parties’ bottom line, but it also allows parties who may not have the budget to pay for an in-person mock trial to engage in a jury research project. This can also be an attractive option for those clients who may not need an entire trial but have a single issue of focus for the mock jurors. Being able to conduct online research in smaller sections than a full trial could be perfect for the cost-conscious client. 

Access to a Wider Pool of Jurors

Online mock trials also provide access to a wider pool of jurors. With the ability to conduct the trial from anywhere, attorneys can recruit jurors from different geographic locations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and demographic groups. This can provide a more diverse and representative sample of jurors, which is always beneficial for evaluating how a jury may react to the case. Jurors are able to participate from their own homes without worrying about the logistics of getting to the mock trial facility. This enables jurors with transportation issues or special needs to participate, giving the attorneys more robust and diverse insights for the trial. Additionally, without the necessity to pay for food and parking for the jurors, that cost savings could allow for more jurors to participate in the project.


Pros of In-Person Mock Trials


Realistic Trial Environment

One of the most obvious advantages of in-person mock trials is the ability to simulate a realistic trial environment. Attorneys can choose a physical location that reflects the actual trial environment,  such as a focus group location that has a traditional courtroom setup with a podium and counsel tables. Getting to “practice like you play” is invaluable when you are presenting in front of the jurors presenting the crucial piece of evidence. With the recent pandemic court closures, even the most seasoned trial attorneys may be out of practice appearing in front of a jury pool. Having to put on a suit and your court shoes puts counsel in the trial mode. 

Personal Interaction

In-person mock trials also provide the opportunity for personal interaction between the attorneys and the mock jurors. This helps to build rapport and trust, which can be important in understanding how jurors may react to the case. It is a more natural setting for attorneys to practice both voir dire and persuasive arguments. Counsel will be able to observe the expressions during presentations, hear any audible gasps during the introduction of photographs, and generally feel the shift of energy in the courtroom. There is also the opportunity for real-time feedback and interaction with your client. Having the chance to strategize over lunch or sweat it out during deliberations is invaluable and nearly impossible to replicate online. 

More Control over the Trial Environment

In-person mock trials also provide more control over the trial environment. This can lead to more accurate feedback and a better understanding of how the jury may react to the case. There is more control over technical issues that may occur during presentations and an ability to pivot as necessary, if everyone is in the same location. It is easier to oversee the jurors in person to ensure they are following the “judge’s instructions,” which forbid independent research or discussion of the case before deliberations. The jurors engage differently with each other when they are in an in-person deliberation room setting, the most realistic to the actual courtroom. 


Whether you choose an online or an in-person mock trial, there are certain benefits to each format. Although an in-person mock trial provides a more realistic environment and allows for increased personal interaction with the jurors, online trials are often more convenient and cost-effective. If you want to learn more about what a mock trial is and if a mock trial project is what your trial team needs, read our recent article “What is a Mock Trial” on the First Court blog.

How does our process benefit you? First Court typically recruits both in-person and online jurors from the trial venue and matches the demographics of the mock jury using government census data to mirror a public jury in that trial venue. First Court ensures that the trial room logistics simulate, as closely as possible,  a real courtroom, emphasizing that this research is a serious and professional project, instilling in the jurors to act accordingly. In both online and in-person projects, First Court’s software allows the attorneys and clients to read each juror’s real-time notes and responses to critical issues crafted by the trial team. 

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Kristi Harrington

Kristi Harrington is a trial consultant with First Court, Inc. As a retired circuit court judge, Kristi presided over hundreds of jury trials. Kristi is a Distinguished Visiting Professor and former Director of Advocacy at Charleston School of Law.

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