My Surrogate Jury Experience
By Steve Gillman - November, 2013
Serving on a mock jury sounds more like an activity from a
high school or college class than something one might actually
get paid for. In researching and writing about this for one of
my websites, I previously wrote, "Although I have seen claims
online that you can make up to $50 per case, this is unlikely."
Well, I do tend to be a bit skeptical, and apparently I spoke
too soon, since I was recently paid not $50, but $150 for
one day as a mock juror (also known as a "surrogate
photo by ZZPZA)
It was a long day, starting at 7:00 in the morning and continuing
until 5:00 that afternoon. Fortunately they fed us a decent lunch
and allowed us to take a few bathroom breaks.
A mock jury is simply a tool used by either the plaintiff
attorneys or defense attorneys in order to see how a case might
play out in a courtroom. In addition to hearing both sides of
the case, and making decisions about who should prevail and to
what extent (how much money should be awarded), jurors are questioned
about the reasons for their judgments and their impressions of
the attorneys, defendants and plaintiffs, so arguments and presentations
can be refined prior to entering an actual courtroom. Of course,
depending on how the mock trial goes, the case may be dropped
or a settlement reached instead of proceeding to trial.
I will not be telling you about the case we listened to. We
had to sign a confidentiality agreement, promising not to reveal
anything about the case to anyone outside of this "study
group." We were told that if someone asked us what we did
that day we could go ahead and tell them, but that we had to
withhold any of the details of the case itself. So I am going
to be a bit vague about what happened, and will not even mention
the date when I participated, or the location of the event. I
will tell you that these are not cheap things to arrange, since
there were well over twenty of us and we were paid $150 each.
There were also numerous employees of the company that arranges
these mock trials, and a several rooms had to be rented.
I was instructed to arrive at 7:00 a.m., and to dress "business
casual." I'm not sure what that means, so I wore slacks,
a button shirt and a tie. I removed the tie after a while, since
only two of us were wearing one. The day was long, but interesting.
We heard the presentation of the plaintiff's attorney (or one
acting as that -- we never did know who hired this company to
do this or which were the real attorneys in the case), then the
defense presentation, and then the plaintiff's final argument.
This took a few hours. Afterward we ate lunch and then were separated
into two groups to discuss the case and render a verdict.
I cannot say much more about the process, but it was a fascinating
experience, perhaps even more so once the presentations were
over and the discussions started. Not everyone remembers the
same things, and minds are changed as the jurors talk.
This is one reason why I think the more common online mock
juries are not nearly as useful to attorneys. Reading the presentations
online and then answering questions is not the same as hearing
the lawyers speak and then discussing it all with others, as
one would do in a real trial. As I said, minds are changed by
Of course it is cheaper to use the companies that present
the case online. They pay as little as $5 and as much as $60
to participants. The online mock juries are arranged through
many websites like ejury.com and onlineverdict.com. I plan to
sign up for some of these just to see what the process is and
whether any of them might be worth the time. One site says participants
average only 35 minutes for to read through a case and answer
questions, which, if true, might make it a fun way to make $10.
Another website I recently researched pays a minimum of $20 per
case, but I don't recall how long their cases take to go through.
In any case, I was happy to spend the day in an interesting
way and get a check for $150 at the end of it. I will sign up
again if the opportunity arises. Keep in mind that in most places
real jurors only get paid $20 or so for their inconvenience.
Maybe if that changed there wouldn't be so many people trying
to get out of jury duty.
If you want to do this just search "mock jury" online
and you'll find some places where you can sign up for the internet
version. The "live" versions are often advertised in
newspaper classified and even on Craigslist.com. You have a better
chance of participating if you live in or near a larger city,
of course, because these "studies" are done for real
cases, and there are generally more lawsuits (and higher-dollar
cases) where there is more population.
Note: To read more about the online opportunities to
be a surrogate juror, see the following recently updated page:
on an Online Mock Jury
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