INDIANAPOLIS, JANUARY 30, 2004 — Barnes & Thornburg clients have benefited for years from the firm’s ability to offer scientific jury research as part of trial preparation. The firm is now marketing its jury research and advocacy analysis service, called ThemeVision, to other law firms throughout the U.S.
“Increasingly, lawyers from other firms have sought our jury research services in significant cases that are likely to go to trial,” said Dr. Dennis P. Stolle, who, with Robert MacGill, founded ThemeVision. Stolle is both a social psychologist and an attorney. “Very few law firms have a Ph.D. jury researcher on staff to conduct focus groups, mock trials, and other scientific jury research. Now, ThemeVision can meet the demand for those services from other law firms in the Midwest and across the U.S.,” said Stolle.
Stolle’s philosophy is that the effectiveness of trial themes and arguments should be scientifically tested well in advance of trial, giving the trial team a chance to reevaluate any themes or arguments that did not resonate with mock jurors.
“In high-stakes litigation, where the outcome of years of discovery and trial preparation is left in the hands of a jury, testing the effectiveness of the trial themes can be critical,” said Stolle.
ThemeVision’s services include: jury simulation studies, focus group research, community attitude surveys, mini-mock trials, mock Alternative Dispute Resolution, supplemental juror questionnaires, development of jury selection strategies, exhibit testing, post-trial juror interviews and settlement analysis.
“We have conducted empirical jury studies across the country in high-stakes patent, trade secret, antitrust, director-and-officer liability, product liability, toxic tort, employment and commercial litigation,” said Stolle. ThemeVision also consults on criminal matters and has even consulted before lawsuits are filed to make early evaluations of jurors’ likely perceptions of the claims and what themes should be emphasized throughout discovery.
With upcoming high-profile director and officer liability cases coming to trial and the intense media coverage of jury selection for the Martha Stewart trial, Stolle believes there will be increasing interest in scientific jury research. Stolle emphasizes that jury selection, which often gets the most media attention, is only one piece of the jury research puzzle: “For example, although jury selection is a critical component of the Martha Stewart trial, you cannot win a trial simply by picking a jury. You always have a limited amount of control over who will be on a jury, but you have tremendous control over what themes and arguments you present. Stewart’s team is already working hard to communicate through recent media appearances that she is a warm and caring person who is the sympathetic victim of overly aggressive prosecutors. Now, the trial team has to package that theme in a way that will resonate with a jury.”
Most jury consulting firms are staffed primarily by non-lawyers, but Stolle believes there is a benefit to having a Ph.D. social scientist who is also a litigation attorney leading the jury research: “There are clear benefits in terms of maintaining the confidentiality of the research results. An attorney who regularly tries large cases knows, first hand, the pace and demands of complex litigation. ThemeVision’s clients expect practical advice that is informed both by high-quality social science research and a complete understanding of the applicable rules of evidence and procedure.”
Stolle earned his Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Nebraska and his law degree from University of Nebraska College of Law. He has published numerous articles on law and psychology and is the editor of a book on legal psychology. Stolle frequently lectures on jury research at conferences and seminars throughout the U.S. and he has served as a peer-reviewer for several of the leading legal psychology journals.