What is a litigation consultant?
We are consultants hired by attorneys
to help evaluate cases and develop trial
We do this by conducting small group
jury research studies in which 30 to 50
people participate in a mock trial or
focus group study. The research involves
presenting mock jurors with abbreviated
evidence and argument summaries along
with some key case documents and
witness video clips. Throughout a study,
the mock jurors fill out questionnaires
and participate in group discussions. This
helps us measure [jurors’] emotional
reactions to the case, their comprehension
of technical or scientific evidence and
how they may be leaning toward a verdict.
We use this jury research to help attorneys
discern the strengths and weaknesses of
a case, and to build on those strengths
and address the weaknesses. We also
consult with the attorneys to help them
communicate their case in ways that are
clear, persuasive and understandable to
Another part of my job involves
conducting opinion surveys to measure
community attitudes and knowledge of
a case when attorneys are considering
a change of venue for a trial. This
could happen if there has been a lot of
publicity about a case and the trial team
is concerned that community members
have strong pre-existing beliefs about the
case. This could make it difficult to seat
an impartial jury.
The majority of my work is in the civil
area, so the cases involve claims relating
to issues such as breach of contract,
alleged environmental hazards, alleged
product defects, intellectual property
disputes and class action lawsuits. For
example, a worker may claim that he or
she was injured by a machine on the job,
or consumers may claim that a product
was defective or unreasonably dangerous
and harmed them.
How do you use your psychology
training in your job?
I use my knowledge of research methods
to make sure the studies we conduct
are methodologically sound and will
produce clear and reliable data. I also
use my training in data analysis to
reveal patterns in the data that relate to
particular case themes and evidence and
to develop “juror profiles.”
I have a background in social
psychology, which helps me understand
how information load, information
complexity, pre-existing attitudes and
emotions can influence jurors as they
process information and recall details.
The way attorneys present a case and
the order in which they present it can
significantly influence jurors’ emotional
reactions. For example, it’s easier for
people to be angry with an impersonal
company, but most companies
have personal stories behind them.
Incorporating a company’s personal
story into a key case theme can often be
an effective trial strategy.
Where did you get the training
and experience needed to get
I went to Northwestern University
for my graduate training in social
psychology. After that, I completed
postdoctoral training at the University
of Nebraska–Lincoln, which has a
distinguished law/psychology program.
I earned a master’s of legal studies
degree from the University of Nebraska–
Lincoln, and a year later I took a
job at the Federal Judicial Center in
Washington, D.C. One of my projects
there looked at the mental health and
substance abuse services on American
Indian reservations across the United
States. My colleagues and I interviewed
people on the reservations, substance
abuse staff, and tribal judges and leaders
to get a comprehensive view of the
issues. Our report summarized the
findings for federal judges, their staff
and the public. I gained valuable field
research experience and also developed
the skills needed to write for an
audience that does not necessarily have a
psychology or science background.
How did you find out about your
I met my boss while we were both
studying in the psychology/law program
at the University of Nebraska. After
graduating, he became a lawyer at the law
firm of Barnes & Thornburg. He worked
on cases in which trial consultants
were hired to conduct jury research.
He realized he had the education,
training and experience to provide that
service himself. He founded the firm’s
trial consulting subsidiary, known as
ThemeVision. After a relatively short
time, he had so much business that he
needed an additional consultant. I started
working for ThemeVision in 2005.
What is challenging or difficult
about your job?
I am a consultant so the client’s timeline
is the priority, and my projects are
under a much tighter deadline than
anything I did in the academic arena.
How did you get that job?
Christina Studebaker, PhD, works
to evaluate legal cases and develop trial strategy.