Legal Blog

Is the Movie “Runaway Jury” Closer to Reality Than We’d Like to Admit?

John Grisham’s legal thrillers that were subsequently turned into movies have long been a hit with practicing lawyers. While a little far fetched on some levels to draw audiences in, there is a kernel of truth in most of them that rings true for practicing litigators.  Grisham’s story in Runaway Jury – a tale about jury consultants and the manipulation of a jury from inside the jury room on a large civil case – was one of the few that seemed a bridge too far for most.  Recent developments in technology are bringing this movie a little closer to reality, though.

Taking out the element of someone inside the jury room selling the outcome to the combatant at trial willing to pay the most for a win, the scenario that otherwise plays out in the movie is starting to become more common.  Jury consultants are growing in prominence, and litigants are increasingly willing to spend money on such services in big cases to predict outcomes.  One of the more common approaches is to have a mock trial with hired jurors to test arguments before they are made in court.  However, a newer entry into the field is using data analytics to help decide who should be on the jury.

The short explanation is artificial intelligence is being used to predict the kinds of jurors a litigant would prefer to have on the jury.  Lists of preferred juror profiles can be built by using computers to identify patterns in a myriad of source material from prior cases to the backgrounds of the actual jurors to be considered for the panel.  From there, picking jurors closer to the desired profile make it more likely than not you will get a predicted outcome based on statistics.

As a lawyer who still has a good amount of the “old school” in him, I am not sure this will be better than an excellent trial lawyer with good instincts and lots of experience on a case by case basis. Still, it takes some of the guesswork out and allows even the good trial lawyers who can do it to focus on other things involved in the case.  As far fetched as it seemed when the movie Runaway Jury was released in 2003, it’s much more likely to become part of the legal landscape now.

ABOUT JOSH QUINTER | 484.531.1701

Josh Quinter is a commercial litigation attorney, with a focus on construction law, and an Associate Managing Principal. Mr. Quinter actively works with his clients in the areas of business planning, contract negotiation and project consulting, risk management and dispute resolution, and litigation. His client service and professionalism have earned him the distinction of being named a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer, a Lawyer on the Fast Track, and a Rising Star.








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