Why Should You Keep Old Jury Lists?

This post is not strategy-related, but as a practical matter, I often run into an issue when working on focus grouping a case that can be easily solved.  I’d like to save you the money and headache.  It’s very simple.  Please keep every jury list you get from every trial in every county (as long as they list addresses of the jurors).

The reason is simple.  I often get called in by attorneys on cases that do not have the budget for a large focus group but where the attorneys really want to see what jurors will do with the case.  There are many ways to cut down on the cost of a focus group.  One of those main ways is to cut out the recruiter.  I mean no disrespect to recruiters out there – they do an amazingly hard job and when there is room in the budget, I 100% recommend using one because they can get random recruits and screen better than any other method.  That said, if you don’t have the money, it’s better to work around that cost and still be able to run a focus group.  While you can recruit jurors off Craigslist or putting out a newspaper ad, I always forewarn attorneys that those methods will not yield a random sample.  People who go on Craigslist to look for odds and ends jobs are often young and unemployed – not to mention that they have a certain  mentality that may differ from your jury pool.  Newspaper ads tend to attract the older, retired crowd, which is fine for a couple of your jurors but again, this will not match your demographics.

My preference, second to affording a recruiter, is to recruit by mailing letters to random people in the county and having them call in to get screened.  When I do this work for attorneys, I cut the recruiter’s fee in half.  And if you’re not hiring someone like me, you can always do this for yourself (although be sure you know how to properly recruit and screen or you may slip up on one word and not know you’ve tainted the focus group).  The problem is always where to get the list of names.  Listings from the DMV and voter registration would be wonderful as that is how jurors are chosen, but personally I’ve had very little luck getting anyone to release those records to me.  A phone book is okay but again, you get many older people responding and may have to fill in some of the younger slots by other means. 

And this is where my suggestion lies.  If you have old jury lists, those are lists of people randomly chosen from that county – a perfect representation of the demographics you are after.  If you keep all your jury lists (and you will need multiple, trust me, as you probably need to mail out 500 letters to get 20 good participants), then when a case comes up and you need to run a focus group either with a consultant (though I may be the only consultant that would take on the recruiting job this way) or by yourself, you will have the lists you need to cut down on costs. 

One word of caution: Do NOT mail to the same people more than once.  If you’ve used a juror once, do not re-use them.

So, bottom line, please keep your jury lists.  And if you have any attorney listservs you participate in, you may want to spread the word or have your trial lawyer associations pile lists so that attorneys can borrow from them when needed.

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Filed under Focus Groups, Jury Research, Trial preparation

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