Online mock trials: a trial consultant's view

Edward P. Schwartz, a trial consultant in Lexington, Massachusetts wrote an article May 19, 2008 in LawyersUSAonline.com. His article noted that there has been many businesses/consultants offering online mock trial feedback. Online mock trials have been touted as quick, convenient and inexpensive alternatives to traditional mock juries. However, I agree with Mr. Schwartz that they cannot offer nearly the quality of feedback as a traditional mock trial.

As Mr. Schwartz noted, “How does one simulate a highly personal, interactive and collaborative process with an anonymous, passive and solitary methodology?” I have looked into these tools and it is my feeling that they may offer some value as to how individuals react to the case, it won’t offer feedback as to how a group of people - a jury would react. Mr. Schwartz refers to the difference as “the interactive nature of true jury deliberations.”

With the lower “online trial”, a lawyer uploads photos, diagrams, and a fact pattern. People are paid to read the facts, look at the photos, and offer feedback. Some of the more sophisticated online vendors offer text communications from other jurors in real time. However, this system doesn’t compare to real life when you have to justify your position in front of a group. As some behavioral psychologists have noted, 90% of communication is non-verbal. Thus, the text offers some feedback on what the individuals think - it doesn’t do a great job of imitating group behavior.

Mr. Schwartz describes the process as providing online focus groups rather than online mock trials. Mr. Schwartz’s website is located at www.eps-consulting.com.