Jury consultants use behavioral insights to help litigators achieve the best possible outcomes for their clients by helping them uncover hidden biases when choosing and interacting with jurors. By advising legal teams before, during, and after a trial, jury consultants also can help litigators present jurors with a favorable narrative and paint the most persuasive picture possible while pleading their case.
The first documented instance of jury evaluation methods influencing a case was in 1972, when the Berrigan brothers, Daniel and Philip, were accused of conspiring to plan protests against the Vietnam War. The defense polled people in the area likely to qualify as jurors to see which demographic groups were most likely to hold biased views against the brothers. By selecting jurors more likely to oppose the war, the defense was able to secure an acquittal and win their case.
Today, jury consultants use techniques such as surveys and mock trials to help legal teams strategize on the best possible juror selection and communication processes. While there is no one route to becoming a jury consultant, many choose to prepare for the role by pursuing education and work experience in fields like criminal justice, social sciences, or forensic psychology. With dedication and a well-rounded education, graduates can position themselves as experts able to help lawyers make a positive impact in their clients’ lives.
What Is a Jury Consultant?
Understanding human behavior and predicting the ways people are likely to act is not a perfect science: No situation is ever black and white, and the most obvious answer is not always the right one. Jury consultants are behavioral experts who help legal teams understand the jurors they are likely to face, the hidden biases they may hold, and the best narrative version of their case to persuade them. Working both for law firms as well as independent contractors, jury consultants have become an influential part of our legal system.
To prepare lawyers for a case, jury consultants conduct pretrial research, which can include doing background examinations of potential jurors, creating juror profiles, performing mock trials, and interviewing people from different demographic groups. By understanding the types of jurors a legal team may face, consultants can advise attorneys throughout the case. By advising lawyers during the jury selection process, presenting suggestions on the best way to present their case, and observing juror behavior during the trial itself, consultants help lawyers understand the human aspect of their case.
Steps to Become a Jury Consultant
Anyone interested in how to become a jury consultant should know that they do not all follow the same path to getting the job. While many consultants, at minimum, have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as criminal justice, forensic psychology, or a social science, many pursue a master’s degree, gain work experience in the judicial system, or work as attorneys before transitioning to roles as consultants. No matter what route graduates choose, a few core competencies are needed to become a successful and sought-after jury consultant.
Gain Knowledge in Law and Psychology
To be an effective jury consultant, it’s not enough to simply research the demographics of potential jurors or the hidden biases they may have. Jury consultants also must be well versed in the law and the ways in which a legal team can present a case. To have the best shot at a positive outcome, consultants need a thorough understanding of both psychology and the trial-by-jury system.
Earning a degree that focuses on both psychology and criminal justice, such as a bachelor’s in forensic psychology, gives graduates a broad perspective and useful skills for a variety of different responsibilities. Learning how a lawyer may understand and present a case, as well as how a juror may interpret it, enables consultants to formulate a narrative that works for both sides, using the law to their advantage while painting a persuasive picture for the jury.
Develop Key Job Skills
Jury consultants are tasked with a variety of different duties and responsibilities, each one requiring its own skills and core competencies. From conducting pretrial research to assisting in jury selection, gathering and analyzing data, and advising a legal team, jury consultants’ responsibilities require a range of skills. Some of these include:
- Knowledge of human behavior
- Time management and organization skills
- Interpersonal communication skills, both written and oral
- Legal knowledge
- Research proficiency
- Mock trial/survey planning competencies
Presenting the psychological perspective of a case to a legal team can be a difficult task, and it may be contrary to how attorneys have learned to interpret cases in law school. Through planning, research, and strong communication skills, consultants can bring out the relatable, human aspects of a case.
Get Work Experience
While a well-rounded education can teach graduates the theories behind the law, human behavior, and case precedents, without work experience, fully grasping the intricacies of the criminal justice system and what goes into trying a case in court can be difficult. By seeking real-world experience, graduates can gain firsthand knowledge of the process, allowing them to put a human face on the psychological or legal theories they’ve learned in school.
As consultants, graduates need a variety of different skills and knowledge sets to provide a comprehensive view of a case. Through internships in criminal justice, forensic psychology, or social work, graduates can gain a multifaceted understanding of human behavior and how our legal system works.
Jury Consultant Salaries
Because jury consultants can work either as independent contractors or for a law firm, their salaries vary. Many consultants are paid by the case, and factors such as work experience and location can greatly impact their pay, with the majority of consulting work being based in cities where a high rate of cases go to trial.
While the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically track jury consultant pay, the agency reported a median annual salary for legal professions of $84,910 as of May 2020, more than double the $41,950 average median annual wage for all occupations. Types of consultants can vary, from those paid on a case-by-case basis to those with a PhD and years of experience. That said, ZipRecruiter reported an average salary for jury consultants of about $59,000 as of October 2021.
Employment Outlook for Jury Consultants
With each high-profile trial that captures the attention of the public comes the need for jury consultants to help the legal teams present their case. While the educational and experiential path to becoming a jury consultant may be long, graduates may find themselves playing a vital and exciting role in influential or precedent-setting cases.
The BLS projects there will be 116,600 new jobs in the legal profession between 2020 and 2030, an employment outlook growth of 9%, which is about the same as the average for all occupations combined (8%). As the need for lawyers grows, along with the need for efficiency in legal firms, the BLS expects the job outlook for professionals who assist attorneys to be particularly positive, with room for many graduates to meet the legal needs of individuals, organizations, and governments.
Use Your Psychology Expertise to Assist Attorneys
Bringing a human element to a trial allows both the jury and legal teams to present the emotional side of a case, turning facts into a compelling story and proving that not all scenarios are as they seem. Through a thorough understanding of the legal system and human behavior, jury consultants can help litigators provide their clients with the best representation possible and can positively impact the lives of those in legal jeopardy.
If you are passionate about the legal system and using psychology in the courtroom, pursuing a career as a jury consultant may be a challenging and fulfilling role for you. By earning a degree such as the online Bachelor of Arts in Forensic Psychology from Maryville University, students build a solid foundation that can set them up for success as a jury consultant. With its fully online program, coursework designed to meet American Psychological Association standards, and experienced professional faculty, Maryville University’s program is designed to provide you with all the skills you need to succeed. Explore the exciting world of jury consulting and discover what you can do with a degree in forensic psychology today.