In any jury trial, attorneys want every advantage they can gain for their clients. They can obtain an important advantage by bringing in a jury consultant, a person who is experienced in human behavior and who can help screen the jury pool for those who are more likely to sympathize with their client and return a favorable verdict. No specific educational requirements are needed to become a jury consultant, and people with a variety of backgrounds work as jury consultants, or trial consultants.
A background in social science is helpful to become a jury consultant because the qualities needed to become a jury consultant include the ability to understand and interpret human behavior, in addition to as good observational skills and the ability to perform research. Strong communication and writing skills, as well as discretion, are also important for someone who wants to become a jury consultant, as are understanding and performing statistical and data analyses. All of these skills focus on human behavior, which is what jury consulting is about. It is not paramount to know the law, so it is not necessary for jury consultants to first be lawyers. A good starting point would be an advanced degree in sociology, anthropology, psychology, or criminology. Some jury consultants hold one of these degrees plus a law degree, but a law degree is not strictly necessary to become a jury consultant.
Lawyers can bring in a jury consultant for many different types of litigation. Jury consultants have weighed in before, during and after murder trials, product liability cases, personal injury, and malpractice litigation, to name just a few. Their work before a trial can include holding mock trials to gauge the effectiveness of a legal argument or defense. Sometimes it can take several months to pick out a jury.
Attorneys have retained jury consultants for years, but the field became more widely known and accepted following the O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1995, when he was found not guilty. Some consultants develop specific areas of expertise, such as jury selection, strategy, working with witnesses or designing the graphics that accompany testimony.