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Mock juror stint can be interesting side gig

Who isn’t on the quest right now for extra cash? Think outside the box. There’s more to the side hustle than Uber and delivering for DoorDash.  There’s a good chance you haven’t thought about serving as a mock juror. Who doesn’t love a good courtroom drama? Cash in on it. 

Mock juries are used by lawyers to test drive their case before they hit the courtroom with an actual jury. They present their case to a jury that has been handpicked to resemble the makeup of a presumptive jury in terms of age, race, gender and socioeconomic background. Lawyers observe the jurors’ reactions and insights to assess what issues might come up at trial. A mock trial helps prep for the real deal.

“There is absolutely no downside to signing up as a mock juror,’’ said Kathy Kristof, editor of SideHusl.com. “It’s interesting work and pays well for your time.”

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While eligibility varies, typically you must be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old.  You can’t be an attorney, or even related to one. Thumbs down too, to paralegals and legal assistants. You may be ineligible if you work at a law firm. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Where the gigs are

There are a few places to start your search.  Online Verdict is popular and pays $20-$60 to review cases that can take between 20-60 minutes.  You sign up and when an attorney posts a case in your county or federal district, you’ll get an email invitation to review the case at your leisure. After accepting the invitation to be an online juror you will be asked to agree to the confidentiality policy, review the case materials and answer all questions about that case. Juror payment is made by check once a month.

With Sign Up Direct you can serve as a surrogate juror or work on other research projects. On the website they say you help resolve legal cases or solve social problems and earn at least $100 or more for up to a day’s work, online or in person. 

You’ll also want to check out eJury, which pays $5-10 to spend about half an hour to review a case.

Sound Jury Consulting routinely conducts mock juries across the country. For 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. mock trials they pay $300-$400, according to Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D., president and consultant. What can you expect? “The responsibilities are to show up, listen to presentations of each side’s case and participate in a mock jury deliberation,’’ O’Toole said. “The biggest demand is participation. We don’t want people to show up and just sit back and stay quiet. Basically, we are paying people to hear their thoughts and reactions. There are no right or wrong answers.”

He says that due to the pandemic, some parties are conducting online mock trials, which allows some mock jurors to participate remotely through Zoom or some other video conferencing platform.

What are attorneys looking for?

Who is an appealing juror?  “We want a representative sample from the trial venue. So for example, if we are recruiting out of King County, which is basically Seattle, Washington, we want a group that looks like King County,’’ O’Toole said. “We also want diversity. We almost always want a 50/50 split on gender and then the other demographics to roughly match the population where the trial will take place. The idea of doing mock jury research is you are trying to get a sense of how the actual jurors might make sense of the case, so you want a group that is similar to the actual jurors.”

What’s also key is that a juror is capable of listening to a lengthy presentation and providing opinions. “That may sound obvious, but there are a lot of people out there who do not like to talk or have difficulty articulating how they feel about things.”

Understand too, you can get opportunities beyond the online platforms. He says mock jurors are recruited in a variety of ways. 

“The industry standard is random-digit dialing, which means you get a random phone call asking if you want to participate,’’ O’Toole said. “Some recruit on social media. Some go old school and post fliers in coffee shops, etc.” 

Ilya Lerma, an attorney and trial consultant at Trial Structure explains who makes an ideal mock juror. 

“People who are less inclined to be open to a plaintiff verdict, don’t really like lawyers or lawsuits, and are willing to talk openly about that and help us gain common ground on the emotional and rational foundations for those ideas,’’ she said. “Open-mindedness is helpful, but not essential.”

She said what matters much is “a willingness to help us explore the attitudes that underlie why they might be so against a case before they have heard much about it makes a person a good juror. From them, we learn if there are places where our case can pivot and how best to make that happen.”

She uses many sources to unearth mock jurors, including hiring temp firms to fill slots, Craigslist and working with other research firms who have vetted pools of mock jurors.

Stacy Harris has served as a mock juror for legal firms representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases. 

“I have learned that lawyers have a lot of misguided ideas when it comes to profiling, but in some cases, the formulae work,’’ she said. “I’ve been paid $75-$150 a day and had fun.”