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Laurie Kuslansky

Laurie Kuslansky
Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D, Managing Director, Trial & Jury Consulting, has conducted over 400 mock trials in more than 1,000 litigation engagements over the past 20 years. Dr. Kuslansky's goal is to provide the highest level of personalized client service possible whether one's need involves a mock trial, witness preparation, jury selection or a mock exercise not involving a jury. Dr. Kuslansky can be reached at kuslansky@A2LC.com. Her bio/CV/references may be viewed and downloaded here: http://A2.lc/kuslansky
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by Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D. Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting A2L Consulting Invariably, despite excellent presentations at mock trials, some observers serving as mock jurors fall asleep. The typical response by clients is to ask us to wake them up, which we often do, but with limited success, as they tend to fall back asleep. The myth, debunked time and again, is that these people aren’t taking it seriously, aren’t taking it in, aren’t paying attention, and will have nothing to contribute as feedback. In fact, we have found that this is almost always contradicted by what ensues. Contrary to what one observes with the naked eye, sleepers have heard more than you think, and certainly have taken in enough in their minds to reach a conclusion. They have fallen asleep because they are “done” and don’t feel as if they need or want more information. Perhaps they find the information boring, repetitive or superfluous, but nonetheless, once deliberations start, clients are amazed to hear what these people say and do. They speak up! They voice well-formed opinions supported by some facts. They don’t ramble and don’t stay quiet in the shadows as one might expect.

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by Laurie R. Kuslanksy, Ph.D. Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting A2L Consulting The litigation arena competes with the political arena in presidential election years. Everyone including large pollsters, such as Pew Research and Quinnipiac, major networks, each political party, each candidate, and myriads of social scientists and politically-interested entities are conducting research using the same resources - i.e., your potential mock jurors and facilities. Many services for conducting mock trials and other forms of jury research, including focus groups, online surveys, telephone surveys, ballroom studies (large format live research involving potentially hundreds of live mock jurors) and “mall intercepts” (in-person interviews) are called upon by political campaigns, pollsters and other interested parties. Both camps need: Recruiting of research subjects Eligible adults to serve as subjects Focus facilities for space to conduct live research Online and phone survey implementers What is the impact on people interested in conducting jury research in a Presidential election year? Due to a finite supply and increased demand: If you want a specific date to do jury research, don’t depend on short lead time or rushes to get it. Availability is more limited than normal as there are many others in line for the same services and space. Instead, plan and prepare better instead of waiting till the last minute;

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By Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D. Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting A2L Consulting When New Became Old In New York City, when one says a building is “old,” it’s over 50 years old. In Europe, it means the 14th century. In the Middle East, it might mean 5,000 B.C. But if you go into a Verizon or T-Mobile store today with a cell phone of 2014 vintage, expect the half-distracted 20-something tech to answer any question you have with, “Oh, that’s OLD.” Fade out, fade in – that Millennial is sitting on your jury. Now what? How does a Gen Y Millennial, born with an iPad in one hand and a pacifier in the other, view time? What are their expectations of “new” and “old”? Millennials (born roughly after 1980) have been described with a forked tongue: “They are a huge generation of impatient, experiential learners, digital natives, multitaskers, and gamers who love the flat, networked world and expect nomadic connectivity, 24x7.” “Millennials are, arguably, the most reviled generation in recent history, and armies of consultants are hustling to decipher them. Called the "Trophy Generation," notorious for receiving prizes simply for showing up, they are thought to be entitled, narcissistic, self-promotional, coddled, opinionated, whiny, and needy, especially at work (when they're not complaining about unemployment, that is). They seek constant feedback and immediate gratification. They multitask and can't focus. They're sensitive to criticism and unable to work alone. They refuse to pay their dues. Don't even mention their (limited) verbal and writing skills.” For those over 36 years of age (or as Millennials call it, “old”), if it seems that Millennial are more materialistic, more self-absorbed and more narcissistic than the rest of us, you’re probably right, but their ambition and grand expectations may also lead to groundbreaking progress and change that outshines the past. Why Care? By 2020, Millennials will make up half the workforce, according to the largest global generational study ever conducted, so it behooves us all to understand the jury psychology of this up-and-coming generation better as they become jurors (and judges). They will sit alongside jurors and others from the Gen X and Baby Boomer generations and share little in common, while you have to win them all over if they’re on your jury.

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By Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D. Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting A2L Consulting Ignorance, the gift that keeps taking Ever talk to someone who dismissed valid information as if they were swatting a mosquito? Ever seen an uninformed person hear a fact, not skip a beat, and dig further into their original, ridiculous position? Do you know any bad drivers who think they’re great or subpar workers who always think they deserve a promotion and a raise? Of course you do. No names, please – but you know what I mean. This phenomenon has been studied as a cognitive error called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It shows that “less competent people rate their competence higher than it actually is, while more competent people humbly rate theirs lower.”   There really is no justice. Incompetent people overestimate their own skill, while competent people overestimate the skill of other people. Most people overestimate their social judgment and mind-reading skill, especially narcissists. The more you know, the better you can identify gaps in your knowledge and perhaps, fill them in or seek to do so. It takes intelligence to realize (1) there are things that you know that you don’t know, and (2) that there are things you don’t even know that you don’t know. Talented, competent people tend to think it’s just normal and underestimate themselves. This is especially true for difficult tasks and is known as the “Worse-Than-Average Effect.”

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by Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D. Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting A2L Consulting Ever been told you were too smart for your own good? I never thought it was possible. I might be too smart for someone else’s good, but not my own. When it comes to jurors and experts, it could be true. Two reasons are cognitive, decision-making biases that are of special interest because they can seriously impair your case. Both follow the lines of “Really? You don’t think like me?!” Specifically, these biases are: The “Curse of Knowledge Bias" in which well-informed people find it hard to think about problems from the perspective of others who are less informed, and The “False-Consensus Bias", whereby people tend to overestimate how much other people will share their beliefs or opinions. Assuming that their own values and beliefs are normal and typical, they hold the false belief that there will be a consensus between others’ opinions and their own. In fact, when they discover that others do not share the same expected opinion, this bias leads them to believe that there must be something wrong with those people who think differently. What Makes Very Smart Jurors a Risk? Individual jurors, who have abided by the court’s instruction not to discuss the case prior to deliberating, often enter deliberations believing that others see the case as they do. Learning that others see it differently initially comes as a surprise based on their false expectation.

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by Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D. Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting A2L Consulting Baby Boomers (yeah man, those who “grew up” in the ‘60s) raised kids to buck the system. No surprise there. They raised kids to think for themselves, to be more independent and not follow rules blindly, and to distrust institutions. The result? Millennials (born roughly between 1981-96) are the least religious generation yet. It isn’t that they started off very religious in the first place. They tended to start by being less religious than their parents, and then drop off from there. This trend applies equally to a distrust of other nonreligious organized institutions such as the labor market, government and marriage, as well as less confidence in the press, government and churches. The study shows, in part, that the biggest shift is the rise of those, heavily represented by Millennials, who claim they do not belong to any organized faith. This isn’t a wholesale rejection of all things spiritual, just of the traditional, institutional variety of beliefs and practices. How does this relate to litigation and jury psychology?

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by Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D. Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting A2L Consulting My second day serving jury duty in Manhattan was like being on an episode of Undercover Boss, quietly observing fellow prospective jurors in their native habitat, speaking little, but taking in a lot. It was especially cold outside and those dressed for success on Day 1 (mistakenly thinking they’d get cut loose early and return to work or life the same day), succumbed to the reality that we were there for at least another full day in the Jury Assembly room, so they dressed down, mostly donning casual clothes and sneakers. Gone were the business suits, uncomfortable dress shoes and the like. Note to counsel: If you want to spot business-clad types, better catch them on Day 1 before these lines get blurred on Day 2. Inquire how many days someone has been serving on jury duty, since changes occur after Day 1. Despite the good humor of the clerks, it was still quite tedious to sit for a whole day with little to do. Although there was free Wi-Fi, when 200 people use it at the same time, it goes at the speed of molasses, making the use of most applications futile. Only one panel of about 20 potential jurors was called into a courtroom. Another was called in the afternoon from another assembly room downstairs, where former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was also serving.

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Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D. Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting A2L Consulting Day 1 (feels like Day 10) at New York State Supreme Court I showed up early to get a bird’s eye view of the jury experience from a rare perspective: the juror’s. New York County jurors are summoned from Manhattan, Roosevelt Island, and one zip code in the Bronx. At nine a.m. sharp, the senior jury clerk opened the metal door and let in roughly 200 freshly minted prospective jurors, including me. On a frigid day, it was no surprise to hear a fair amount of coughing, so navigating to a disease-free seat was like skiing a slalom run. In addition to the jury summons, the courts now request another form asking anonymously for one’s demographics (gender, age, ethnicity) to help the court gauge who is showing up. The information is not available to the public – I asked. Some improvements (summoning jurors for only two to three days rather than three minimum; summoning jurors less frequently – only once each six years) have been implemented. Other “improvements” to the jury experience – such as providing work space, computers, lots of charging stations, etc. are, sadly, good on paper but a myth, not reality.

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