Attorney at Law Magazine’s Recommended Mock Trial Company is First Court, Inc., which begs the question: What is a “Mock Trial?”
According to Wikipedia, a mock trial is defined as an “imitation trial.” But "real" mock trials for mediation and litigation research are much more nuanced than that simple definition. Google “mock trial,” and you are likely to find listings for student competitions and comparisons to moot court.
Mock trials are ubiquitous in middle school, high school, and college debate forums, often hosted by local bar associations to familiarize students with legal concepts. Law schools have entire departments dedicated to helping law students showcase their advocacy skills while engaging in competition with other law schools. While those trials offer exceptional opportunities for the students, the cases are not real and do not have an impact beyond the volunteer judge’s ruling. Typically, there are no jurors. No one is going to jail; no checks will be written.
In a real case, with real lawyers, there are issues that need to be resolved. Someone is facing prison time or has sustained life-altering injuries. Most lawyers hate surprises, especially as a verdict is being read. A law degree doesn’t come with a crystal ball and rarely does a case come with a mulligan. Lawyers want to know what the decision-makers, the jurors, are going to think about the case, or about them, before they try the case.
In a mock trial, lawyers can construct the presentation to address the issues that they think may be pivotal to the decision they are seeking. Or they can simply try their case to the jurors. That’s a benefit of a mock trial: The attorneys can structure the mock trial to allow the jury to focus on a small part of the case or on the entire case.
Let’s walk through some typical “mock trial” scenarios to better understand how a mock trial could benefit your case.
Scenario #1: You represent the Plaintiff who has suffered horrendous injuries due to the negligence of the Defendant company. Sounds wonderful, right? But we know cases are not always that simple. As you develop the case, you find the Plaintiff less likely to relate to the jurors of your jurisdiction or you know that the Defendant is a well-liked company who employs many people in your state. You contact a trial consultant to conduct a mock trial, focusing on the sole issue of likeability and credibility of the Plaintiff. You try the case to the representative jurors of your jurisdiction, asking specific questions about their perceptions of your client. You find that those jurors did not focus at all on the Plaintiff’s demeanor. Instead, they were focused solely on the egregious behavior of the Defendant. After the successful mock trial, you are encouraged and decide that your case does have merit. You are able to use the feedback from your mock jurors to fine-tune your theme.
Scenario #2: You represent the Defendant company who has employed a driver who has a history of reckless driving. Your driver was speeding and texting, failing to see the family sedan when he changed lanes. Your question is should you admit liability and just argue damages? A mock trial will allow you to try each scenario with your jury to determine what the better outcome would be for your client. Have a one-day mock trial where you present the full case to your mock jury. Use the second day to admit liability and spend the time developing your argument on damages. Your trial consultant can assist you in analyzing the data to determine which presentation resonated with your jurors.
These are just two potential ways to utilize a mock jury in your case. The “real” mock trial is limited only by the implementation of your vision with consultation with your trial consultant. It is the closest thing to a crystal ball you will find in the courtroom.