4. Focus Group

Imagine if we could hear, see, and feel what our real jury is thinking from beginning to end. Imagine the power of knowing their feelings, emotions, and thoughts as they see our client for the first time, hear the judge read the charges aloud, listen to the victim and other witnesses, and (finally) deliberate the verdict. Imagine that we could read the minds of the jury. It might even seem like an unfair advantage.

The Focus Group gives us that magical ability. The Focus Group dynamic lets us read the minds of the jury in a laboratory setting. We get to hear, see, and feel what our real jury is thinking. The power of that is almost incomprehensible.

Perhaps the best way to understand the Focus Group is to understand what it is not. It is not a “mock trial” where we present an opening statement, summary of witnesses, etc. There is a time and place for that. But not here.

The Focus Group is far more powerful and effective. Like Aristotle’s scientific method, the Focus Group lets us isolate and test our theories. The group is exposed to facts about the case incrementally. And as facts are added, we gain invaluable feedback. We then document the feedback at every incremental step, creating what will become our final trial preparation.

The genius of the Focus Group is that it mimics the flow of information (not just evidence) of the real trial. We all have wondered what the jury thinks when they look at our client as they first enter the courtroom. We all wonder what they think when they first hear the judge read the charges aloud: “Rape of a Child under 13” or “Aggravated Murder” or “Gross Sexual Imposition.” We know they are told not to prejudge. But what are they really thinking?

And most importantly, we all wonder when and how we can overcome all that emotion and turn the case in our direction. Where and what is the pivot point that shifts the focus from the emotion to the logic?

But egos beware. The Focus Group is unforgiving. This is where we confront and expose our own biases. Like the jury, the Focus Group Method has no interest in protecting our egotistical urge to be right. Our best ideas are shredded. Flaws in logic are exposed. We are peppered with criticism, feedback, and emotional responses we did not see coming.

This is where all three points of Aristotle’s triangle–Ethos, Logos, and Pathos–come together. The result is magical. Like invisible ink on an ancient treasure map, True North emerges, indelibly showing us the path to the coveted not guilty verdict.

PREVIOUS — 3. Strategic ConsultationNEXT — 5. Post-Focus Group Strategy Consultation