May 13th, 2021|

Call it a deposit; call it a retainer. Magnus doesn’t start work without one (except in rare circumstances beyond the scope of this post). We need money, we want money; importantly, other people want money. We learned, the hard way, that clients need to “show us the money.” One of our first cases blew up on us and the client pulled the plug after we started spending our money on his behalf (and we had little to spend in year 1). He cost us what seemed like a fortune at the time and we never heard from him again.

Bystander apathy

May 11th, 2021|

Why do some people help others in need while other people appear to ignore the suffering of another person? What factors make it likely that bystanders will intervene when a stranger is in obvious need of help, for example, while being attacked in a public place? What is the impact of other people on the willingness of someone to help a stranger in distress? These, and related, questions have been asked and answered by social psychologists over the past 50 years. In fact, the bystander effect, also known as bystander apathy, is one of the most frequently researched topics

Heuristical thinking

May 5th, 2021|

Biases and heuristics often, but not always, go hand in hand. While bias is attributed to the absence of reflective thought, leading to limitations in judgment, heuristics are used intentionally when making inferences. Heuristics are common sense reasoning strategies employed by laypersons. They are “shortcuts” that accelerate the decision making process. Heuristics may or may not be based on logic and they may or may not lead to the correct decision. Heuristics have been extensively researched by social psychologists (and economists) since the 1970s. Magnus’ reports often include the heuristics employed by mock jurors when they deliberate on a case.

Social desirability

April 27th, 2021|

Social desirability has important implications in jury selection. Social desirability refers to the phenomenon of saying or doing something because “everybody else” does. For example, when an attorney or a judge asks a prospective juror whether he/she can put aside all biases, predisposed beliefs, and personal feelings and instead, be an impartial judge of the facts of the case being tried based on the law and the evidence, the socially desirable answer is “Yes.” Few among us want other people to believe or know, with certainty, that we are biased, have already made up our minds about the defendant’s

Hard Work

April 15th, 2021|

Always learning – that’s the reality of life, and in operating a business. A lesson learned many years ago happened when we hired a young woman as a research associate. She fit all of our hiring criteria for education, background, etc. She was attractive and well dressed. Her appearance was important to her as evidenced by her manicure. She didn’t work at Magnus long; she resigned, in part, because of the physical aspect of lugging our equipment around and setting it up. But, worse, she broke a fingernail when doing so! It occurred to us then that we needed to

Hiding behind Email

April 1st, 2021|

Prompted by my posts about “different direction” and “ghosting,” a related phenomenon is hiding behind email, especially as a way to deliver bad news. Maybe it is just me, but it seems a matter of professionalism and fairness that, if one asks someone else to do something like prepare a proposal for consulting services, the asker should be willing to talk with the proposal preparer after receiving it. Proposals are not free; there are real costs associated with them. Even if it’s only the paper on which the original is printed then scanned, there is a cost; sending a hard

Sorting out responses and non responses

March 4th, 2021|

A few months ago, Melissa and I were talking with one of our favorite clients, Buddy Schulz, when he commented that Melissa’s job during jury selection involved sorting out responses, and non responses, of potential jurors. He was noting that it is one thing to evaluate what someone says during jury selection (or perhaps with any interaction, including job interviews, interrogations, etc.). But, it is clearly another thing to “hear” what they don’t say, that is, what they are not telling you. As a trial lawyer, or trial consultant, during that short period when the jurors can talk, known

No One Has Ever Said They Wish Their Jury Research Had Been Later

February 16th, 2021|

In almost 30 years of owning and operating Magnus Research Consultants, David and I have been fortunate to have few complaints from clients. When there have been complaints, they have been of the following type: (1) “Your report is too long and comprehensive; it took too long for me to read”; (2) ”The charts summarizing questionnaire responses were hard for me to understand”; and, most common among the complaints, (3) “I waited so long to do the mock trials that it was too late for me to change my trial strategy to incorporate your suggestions for trial strategy.” Again, I

Mercy of the Court

February 11th, 2021|

Twice this week, when talking with clients, or prospective clients, I’ve been told they are waiting on the judge to do something. The language they used was “I’m at the mercy of the court.” Their lamentations are painful reminders of the nature of our work. Often the idea of “mercy of the court” is mentioned, in life and in entertainment, in the context of “throwing oneself on the mercy of the court” when it comes to criminal sentencing. This post is NOT about that. It is about the Court’s (a.k.a. the judge’s) ability to impact the timetable of litigation. Setting

PowerPoint Exhibits: Good-Bad-Ugly

January 21st, 2021|

I had an interesting conversation today with a client who was preparing a PowerPoint presentation for an upcoming mock trial. As we discussed his plan, he mentioned that he was planning to use 20 slides for a 10 minute presentation. I tactfully suggested that 1 slide every 30 seconds is too many. This led to a discussion beyond his case during which I explained that PowerPoint should not be used as a script. Whether for a trial, a business meeting, or for any type of presentation, using PowerPoint (or any related electronic presentation tool) as a script is a bad