Focus Groups: Hitting the Bull's-Eye

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March 2017 - Reviewed by Kristin L. Beightol

 

Focus Groups book cover

Focus Groups: Hitting the Bull's-Eye

AAJ Press
Phillip H. Miller and Paul J. Scoptur
www.justice.org/focusgroups
244 pp., $119.99
Reviewed by Reviewed by Kristen L. Beightol

In Focus Groups: Hitting the Bull’s-Eye, Phillip H. Miller and Paul J. Scoptur aspire to help attorneys get the most out of focus groups—and that is exactly what they achieve in their short, practical, and easily digestible how-to guide.

The book debunks many long-standing focus group theories, turning them on their heads in favor of real and usable advice from two authors who have run thousands of focus groups. For instance, many attorneys conduct traditional half- or full-day 12-person focus groups just before trial or mediation. But Miller and Scoptur advocate small groups, short groups, multiple groups, and groups that take place before a case is even filed.

The authors emphasize the importance of listening to and learning from focus groups to build a winning case, versus using them as a forum to practice case presentation. Miller and Scoptur demonstrate how to use focus groups to find case holes and not simply to assess case values.

Readers will learn how to test the case proof and what questions to ask participants to elicit useful information. The authors also encourage highlighting the weaknesses of your own case to participants—just as the defense will highlight these points to jurors—instead of merely presenting one side.

Miller and Scoptur also offer suggestions on how to prevent focus group members from learning which side you represent, ensuring they remain unbiased. This advice largely includes outsourcing: obtaining a neutral venue, for example, or hiring someone to run the groups or even to recruit potential group members. But because outsourcing may significantly increase costs, they offer plenty of tips for running focus groups in-house.

Hitting the Bull’s-Eye demonstrates how focus groups can be used as a crucial case-building tool throughout any lawsuit’s life span. They can help attorneys craft voir dire strategies, make useful discovery requests, and frame cases for trial or mediation.

The book also has a helpful appendix that includes a case plan (a chart you can fill in with the proof you need to win at trial), proposed screening questions for potential participants, and sample advertisements to recruit participants.

Rather than dispensing broad advice, Miller and Scoptur’s book helps readers develop a concrete game plan. Every trial lawyer handling complex litigation would benefit from reading it before filing his or her next case.


Kristen L. Beightol is an attorney with Bird Law Group in Atlanta. She can be reached at klb@birdlawgroup.com.​