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Whistleblowing isn’t easy

January 16th, 2020|

Much has been in the news lately about people blowing whistles on allegations of corruption and abuse. Without discussing these specific situations, I want to address the act of sounding an alarm, or blowing a whistle. I have written something on this previously, but it warrants revisiting. I will start by saying that, if you haven’t been there, you may not comprehend this, but, I’ve been there. I’ve been a whistleblower. In fact, both Melissa and I have been there. And, taking a stand against what we saw as fraudulent acts by our then employer has had long term costs

Pro bono work – why do it

January 14th, 2020|

In the almost 30 years David and I have owned and operated Magnus Research Consultants, we have been privileged to work on several high profile pro bono cases. Pro bono means “for the public good” and it is usually performed by attorneys for free, that is, at no cost to their clients. Many lawyers are committed to working on pro bono cases; in fact, large law firms often have a pro bono practice in which several attorneys work on behalf of their clients. Magnus has been involved in some horrifying pro bono cases, including mentally ill prisoners who were abused;

Magic Bullets

January 2nd, 2020|

I recently read an article about a “brand new, state of the art jury selection program to bring data science to jury selection.” That is not a direct quote, but a synopsis of the news story I read about the program. (Disclaimer: I don’t really know anything about this program other than what was in the news and on the firm’s website.) This particular program is available only to plaintiffs’ lawyers so I will not address it specifically, but rather, the concept that something like this is often seen as a magic bullet. Despite the claim in the article, this

Why I like spending time with lawyers

December 17th, 2019|

Many people, including mock jurors and other research participants, courthouse personnel, friends, and attorneys, ask me if I am an attorney. Invariably, when this happens, I am wearing a dark, conservative business suit, the attire preferred by many attorneys with whom I am acquainted. I always answer, “No, I am not an attorney. I am a psychologist.” This answer often leads to a series of follow up questions, none of which are the subject of this post. Instead, this post is about why I like spending time with attorneys, including why I have chosen a career that involves spending time

Blue Intake Forms

November 28th, 2019|

As someone who thrives on forms and checklists, I also know that it is critical to improve them, as well as update them. I learned this practice from my photography mentor, Jon Peters. I’ve adapted what I did as a photographer, that is, providing a service to clients, to what I/we do as trial consultants, providing various services to clients. There are lots of details to track about a particular case, and about all active cases. One is a form/checklist for case intakes I created for another employer and then modified and improved for Magnus on day 1 – way

Don’t say yes, when you mean, I don’t know…

November 21st, 2019|

We once had an employee who was full of lessons for us. She worked hard, but sometimes she had to work extra hard to overcome her own limitations. This resulted in her inability to focus on a question at hand. And, I don’t know if it was to be dismissive in order to return to “her work,” but, on numerous occasions she answered “yes” when asked if something was done. Such as, “Has the hotel signed the confidentiality agreement?”; “Does the hotel have free parking for the mock jurors?”; “Does the hotel have room service?”; “Is there an airport shuttle?”;


November 7th, 2019|

A client who has made several comments that have prompted prior blogs mentioned recently that, sometimes, things look great in the war room, but in the bright lights of the courtroom, they fall flat. I think he made a great point. As a photographer, I know that one of the keys to success in photography is photographing things in the right light. That is, the light most flattering to the subject. This could be front light, back light, side light, Rembrant lighting, low key, high key, and so on. Sometimes the light is too hot, sometimes it is too dim,

Which Path?

October 31st, 2019|

I was recently contemplating a question commonly asked by our clients – which alternative is best? For example, a client recently asked, “We can call the situation a complication, we can call it unforeseen, we can call it an accident; which is best?” For whatever reason that day, my mind did, as it often does, thought of song lyrics. So, with apologies to Led Zeppelin, I’ll reveal that what I thought of were the words to one of the top songs of all time (“Stairway to Heaven”), which goes like this: Yes, there are two paths you can go by

Trial Consultant as Secret Weapons

October 10th, 2019|

Over the years Melissa and I have been working as trial consultants, we have often been called “a secret weapon” numerous times. In reality, the fact that we, or any trial consultant, is working on a case, at least in conducting pre-trial research, preparing witnesses and the like, is secret. It is confidential attorney work product. When a trial consultant appears in court for jury selection, this is a bit less secret, but the trial consultant’s role is typically not telecast to the jurors by agreement of the attorneys (especially when both sides have consultants). Our status as a “secret

Talk to the Boss

October 3rd, 2019|

Many years ago when we were first starting Magnus, we learned a lesson, the hard way, about trusting clients, even prior clients, or their associates, when making research plans. We met with a client from our prior employer, at his request, and we came up a research plan for one of his cases. After the meeting, I sent a proposal, and because the attorney was busy and traveling, I communicated with the associate attorney working for the lead attorney – the prior client. He confirmed the research plans and assured us that everything was on track. Time was tight and