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Oh the places you’ll go!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013
posted by Rita Handrich

Img_0141After concluding a recent pretrial research project in New Orleans, we ate at a wonderful restaurant and I thought about all the places we’ve been to conduct pretrial research. Often it is glamorous. Sort of. At least it can sound that way if you talk fast. Frequent flyers. Exotic destinations. And while we sometimes do exotic or urban destinations–and even international destinations, that is not the norm. No, it isn’t all Los Angeles, New York City, Anchorage, Alaska; Washington, DC, Houston, Texas, Honolulu, Paris, France; or even Asheville, North Carolina. Those are all wonderful places for finding fabulous restaurants to enjoy after a hard day or two (or twenty-seven) of work while on the road.

But we also get to go places where we don’t necessarily wish to return any time soon. Why? Because we really have to go there in order to do research. We’ve heard of research being done using the outlying counties of major metropolitan areas to “match” a very, very rural venue. Trust us. We’ve been to those very, very rural venues and suburbanites just don’t look the same way. They also don’t sound or think the same way. So you may find us in the far, far hinterlands carefully matching one very, very rural venue with the one where our trial will take place. While we won’t name names, here are some of the more intriguing places we’ve done pretrial research.

We shared a backwoods “resort” hotel with a huge convention of men looking for their “inner drummer” (or something like that) and had to negotiate with the conference leader to not have a huge drum “event” during deliberations or attorney presentations.

That same “resort hotel” had only a single food service area with large community tables and “the drummers” were encouraged [by their facilitators, not by us] to share their stories with us and our mock jurors. And they were intent on proselytizing. Let’s just say… there were some words about that part of a complicated weekend.

Other very rural venues have shown us the extent to which the internet has passed by some Americans completely. At one site, of 36 mock jurors, only 4 had internet access. At another, of 48 jurors, only 11 had ‘smart phones’ while a majority didn’t understand the question. Most had “not heard of” Amazon.com’s website. One called a major social networking site, “the devil’s work” and others nodded somberly.

At another rural venue, we suddenly realized that when the clients asked us to pay everyone to stay for an extra couple of hours we did not have enough cash to pay the mock jurors.The nearest ATM was 12 miles away in another small town! Thanks to GPS, we found it!

The stories can go on and on. It’s like going back in time in some ways. And yet, what we always experience is that these very rural mock jurors–who struggle to comprehend esoteric IP language or to track a complex software program though various patent conflicts–are among the nicest people you could meet. They are friendly, eager to be of help, and welcoming–even when they know we are very, very urban. And they are committed and determined to understand anything that is offered to them in a willing spirit. Of all they have taught us, and it’s a lot, perhaps the most important lesson has been that if you treat people with respect, good humor and kindness, you are almost always treated that way in return.

Image by Katie Adams along the road

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