In the film
Big trials have big consequences, and both sides will often spare no expense to make sure that they give themselves the edge in any court proceeding. With the huge payout potential of major civil trials and grave consequences of criminal trials, there is perhaps no more important aspect of a court case than the selection and monitoring of a jury. That's where trial consultants earn their keep.
Job Functions and Work Environment
Jury consultants work very closely with attorneys throughout criminal and civil trials. They not only assist in selecting juries, but they also spend a great deal of time preparing attorneys and their clients for trial.
Most often, they work for private consulting firms, such as Courtroom Sciences, Inc, which was founded by television host Dr. Phil McGraw. These consulting firms contract their services to clients across the country.
In the period building up to trial, jury consultants will conduct mock trials in order to help lawyers, witnesses and defendants to get a picture of how the trial will go, what to expect from the opposing counsel, and what kind of verdict they can expect.
The job of a jury or trial consultant often includes:
- Studying human behavior
- Studying and analyzing mannerisms
- Analyzing verbal responses
- Analyzing nonverbal communications and body language
- Preparing reports
- Communicating with and advising attorneys
- Making and defending decisions
- Conducting mock trials
After the mock trial, jury consultants will advise attorneys in the jury selection process. They will develop questions to ask potential jurors and provide advice on whether to retain or dismiss them based upon their responses and behavior.
In high stakes trials, attorneys will put a great deal of stock in the advice they receive from their consultants during this phase. They put a great deal of stock into the opinions of trial consultants because a favorable jury will almost always be the difference maker in a successful trial.
During the trial phase, jury consultants will often observe the individual jurors and assist their client in identifying how receptive jurors are being to their arguments and tactics. They may provide advice on how to better tune their arguments to illicit a more favorable reaction from jurors.
Education And Skill Requirements
Juries are made up of people, so of course individual biases play a big role in their decision-making process. As such, it takes an expert on human behavior to understand what and how a potential jury may think and act.
In light of this fact, jury consultants must have, at a minimum, a bachelor's degree in psychology or behavioral sciences. An advanced degree is preferred, though, and may be required in order to break into the field.
Jury consultants are professionals psychologists who work within the larger field of forensic psychology. Most hold a doctorate, or have extensive experience in the field of behavioral science and study of human behavior.
With a bachelor's or master's degree, people seeking careers as jury consultants will want to build a strong resume working with other psychologists. Working in a research institution or as an assistant to a consultant is a viable path to becoming a professional consultant.
Most important to the job of a jury consultant is the ability to interpret, understand and analyze human behaviors, thoughts and feelings. With this understanding, trial consultants must be able to assess how individual people will react to information and delivery styles and how they will render decisions.
Job Growth and Salary Outlook
There will always be trials, so there will always be a need for trial consultants. Jury consulting is a relatively small industry, but growth has been steady over the last several decades. According to the American Society of Trial Consultants, membership in the professional organization began with 19 people on 1982. The society now boasts more than 500 members.
Jury consultants can earn more than $100,000 annually. They typically provide contractual services that may include a large hourly rate. They may also charge a flat rate depending on the service rendered. In either case, the job of a jury consultant can be quite lucrative.
Is a Career as a Jury Consultant Right for You?
Becoming a jury consultant takes hard work and a great deal of studying. Because it is a small industry with a big potential payout, you need to set yourself apart as one of the best in your field.
Academic success and achievement will be paramount. A career as a jury consultant may perfect for those looking for a criminology career who enjoy behavioral analysis and problem solving, and your hard work may pay dividends in the end.