DIY Trial Research Hacks

For every trial attorney, Do It Yourself research is often a great first step when thinking through case dynamics and jury selection strategies. Simply finding out how friends and colleges react to the dynamics of any given case can bring extremely helpful information to the decision-making table. Even in formal research, generating ideas based on existing or secondary information usually kicks off a project. And if done well, DIY research can save money. Regardless of the formal/informal nature of a project, all social research comes with some inherent risks. In formal research, mitigating these risks is done by selecting designs and procedures that have been proven over time to improve validity. The “best practices” for executing focus groups, IDI’s, panel research, message testing, etc. have been around for decades. These do’s and don’ts labeled “threats to inference” are well documented and, in many ways, grounded in common sense. People are extremely difficult research subjects. Hence the need for validity checks — steps vital to reveal issues within a research design that could produce false or inaccurate findings. Some significant “threats to inference” in focus groups comes from poorly structuring the “interaction” between respondents and the moderator. Also, the setting of a focus group can have a tremendous impact on steering respondent opinions. Knowing how to address some of the most problematic validity issues will improve your approach to doing any in-house project.