Millikan, a lawyer in a small downtown St. Louis firm,
wanted to get a feel for how a jury would react to
arguments in a personal injury case he was defending.
Hiring surrogate jurors for a mock trial was too
expensive, so he began exploring the Internet for
His search revealed several sites
offering virtual juries made up of people who read
information about a case, render a verdict and answer
questions about how they reached their decision. And
it's all done online.
"The advantage is it's
quick and cost effective as opposed to getting a focus
group together to go through a whole trial," he said. "A
bigger firm can afford focus groups, but this is half
Although his firm, Reinert &
Rourke, had some concerns, the lawyers decided to give
it a try and submitted a case to Arlington, Texas-based
eJury. Millikan and his colleagues were so pleased with
the information they received about the case, which is
set for trial in April, that they have asked eJury to
handle a second one.
"As a lawyer, you focus on certain things, but
there were other things jurors brought up that I just
wasn't thinking about," Millikan said. "It gives you an
idea of points to impress upon jurors."
virtual jury is one of the newest tools used in
pre-trial research aimed at helping lawyers develop
their courtroom presentations, select the best jurors
for their cases and reach negotiated settlements.
Although trial consultants have been providing various
types of jury research since the 1970s, the concept of
online juries began to emerge about five years
Texas lawyer Chris Bagby was inspired by a
Dateline television show featuring trial coverage of a
case. During the program viewers were asked to vote on a
suspect's guilt or innocence. Bagby was amazed at the
response and it gave him the idea for a business in
which lawyers could "pre-try" their cases before online
juries. He started www.ejury.com in 2000.
plaintiff's lawyer, I had always been jealous of the
money that defense attorneys got from insurers to pay
for mock juries. Those things are extremely expensive .
. . about $30,000 to $50,000 in the Dallas/Ft. Worth
area," Bagby said. "If you've got a case worth $50,000
you can't afford to use it."
In contrast, Bagby
said eJury can provide online research for about $600 to
$5,500 depending on the complexity of the
In the early days of the business, Bagby
attracted jurors by distributing business cards that
told recipients they could get paid for logging into
eJury and giving an opinion on a real case.
he has some 100,000 online jurors nationwide and eJury
has generated online verdicts in more than 275
"Now we can do a case almost anywhere in
the United States," he said, explaining that the online
jurors come from the same venue as the case they will
decide. Bagby said his company is handling six cases in
the St. Louis area.
Through eJury and competing
Web sites, virtual jurors can sign up to participate in
a decision-making process aimed at helping lawyers
determine what their cases are worth, find facts to
emphasize and learn public attitudes.
that the jurors get paid $5 to $10 per verdict depending
on the complexity of the case.
"It's not really
enough money to do anything with. The reason they do it,
they find it interesting. It's definitely the intrigue,
not the money," Bagby said. "I've had some say it's
provided the most fascinating dinner conversation
they've had with their spouse in years."
Ellen Whiteman, a lawyer who works for Legalvote.com, a
virtual jury service in Georgetown, Conn., agreed. The
service, a subsidiary of Vote.com, can be found at
She said jurors are not paid
per verdict but instead are entered in a drawing for a
money prize. While she did not give a specific figure,
she said the amount is not "huge."
to voice their opinion," she said.
receives a case, the firm sends e-mail messages seeking
participation from "jurors" living in the same area as
the litigation, Bagby said. EJury usually notifies some
400 jurors in an effort to get 50 responses. The typical
turnaround time is four days, Bagby said, but it can be
shorter under certain
Legalvote.com can usually get a
turnaround in 24 to 48 hours, Whiteman
Millikan said he initially was concerned
about jury demographics. For example, he worried there
would be too few older jurors because they might be less
likely to use computers.
"I was pleasantly
surprised when we got the results," he said. "There was
a pretty wide range."
Lawyers receive information
about online jurors' age, race, gender, political
affiliation, county of residence, occupation and marital
As for costs to the lawyers, Bagby said
the basic charge is $300 per single-spaced page of
information. Each case usually averages about five pages
of written summaries of both sides'
For the base price, lawyers are also
allowed to ask participants a limited number of
questions about their view of the case and what they
found important. Extra fees are attached to additional
questions, the use of pictures and other
While virtual juries are definitely a less
expensive way to go, Robert Gerchen, director of the St.
Louis office of Litigation Insights, a jury research and
trial consulting firm, said his company only uses "live"
focus and deliberation groups.
"We can control
the sample better and it allows us to get direct and
immediate feedback," he said. "We are more confident in
the generalization of the results."
expert said Web-based juries provide limited
"For this to be impactful, you want
something deeper than people answering questions
online," said Philip Anthony, chief executive of Los
Angeles-based DecisionQuest, a leading jury research
firm that has done work in Madison County.
mock juries are expensive because they generally involve
multiple panels of 12 individuals. Surrogate jurors are
usually paid between $125 and $175 a day in addition to
fees for consultants, lawyers and support staff. St.
Louis area attorneys who have used mock juries said they
can cost six figures.
Still, if a trial means
there's a lot of money at stake, attorneys say live
simulations are a better bet than virtual
For example, the online pool is limited
to people actively seeking to decide a case and who have
some level of computer knowledge. Virtual jurors will
make decisions without watching trial simulation and
without the peer pressure that can accompany jury
deliberations. There is also no way to control whether
Internet jurors have consulted with friends and family
about a case.
"You don't really know what you are
getting," Anthony said.
Peter Joy, a Washington
University law professor and expert in trial practice,
said a virtual juror also cannot react to a particular
"It's often more important to know how
does the jury feel about 'me.' . . . That is something
that is lost on a virtual jury."
believe that the use of virtual juries will grow in
sophistication and popularity.
wisdom these days is that you've got to test a case
before you take it to trial," said Gerchen. "What
lawyers think is important and what jurors think is
important are two different