3 Common Mock Trial Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

CSI - Courtroom Sciences Inc

Mock trials are an exceptional tool for litigation teams with the potential to provide pivotal information to influence case strategy. When conducted in a realistic and scientific manner, mock trials do much more than merely function as ‘trial practice,’ rather, the results of a mock trial can, and should, be utilized to scientifically predict liability and potential range of damages.

Courtroom Sciences understands what’s at risk in your litigation and how imperative it is to have real, accurate data upon which to make decisions. When trial attorneys have a better idea of the evidence, arguments, witnesses, and themes that jurors find compelling, they can use that knowledge to form decisions and prepare their cases to achieve the very best outcomes.

In order to operate a mock trial that is capable of unearthing potential issues or determining a clearer picture of what the case is worth, it should be managed with as few mistakes as possible. Mitigate risks by avoiding three common mock trial mistakes and learning how to manage them. 


What are common mock trial mistakes?

A mock trial setting is an opportunity to find areas where defense counsel can learn, test, and improve. Avoid these common mistakes to get the most out of your next mock trial: having an underprepared opposing counsel, lack of witness testimony, and being fearful to test for damages. 


Mistake #1 - Underprepared Opposing Counsel

A benefit to executing effective mock trials is obtaining viewpoints and aspects that may not have been considered otherwise and provide opportunities for improvement. However, in a mock trial exercise, the defense counsel presents both the plaintiff and defense cases, and this can lead to a common mistake, which is not presenting a strong enough opposing argument.

This mistake can happen for a number of reasons, including the attorney playing the plaintiff not knowing the case, not having the trial experience necessary, or simply not believing the case they are trying to present. No matter the reason behind their actions, it could negatively affect the outcome of the exercise if they are unable to present the case or argue the facts the same way opposing counsel would in the real world. Without a strong plaintiff case, the defense case looks exceptional by comparison, they win the mock trial far too easily, and the exercise fails to provide the insights desired and necessary.

Ideally, in a mock trial, you want it to be difficult so you can pinpoint precisely where you need to improve. This is the time to anticipate what the worst-case scenario might be. The goal of the mock trial should not be for the defense to automatically win but to present a balanced view and gauge jury response. In many cases, defense counsel will learn more from a mock trial loss than a win. To make the exercise most advantageous, make sure the opposing side is well represented.


Mistake #2 - Lack of Witness Testimony

Witness testimony is one of the most important, if not the most important, element of a case, and mock trials are an invaluable tool to evaluate juror impressions of witnesses. As verdict and damages decisions frequently hinge on witness testimony, not showing witness testimony during a mock trial is another common mistake that should be avoided.

Because jurors often make up their minds when listening to the witnesses, if the mock jurors don't see the witnesses, but the actual jury does, it could make a vast difference in the results of the case. It becomes essential for defense counsel to condense witness testimony into its essential components and then diligently present that testimony in the mock trial.

Allowing jurors to evaluate real witnesses during the mock trial will improve the ability to achieve predictive accuracy. In addition, defense counsel may discover the pieces of evidence or arguments that jurors find most compelling or that they should attempt to elicit a piece of information from a witness that they had not previously considered. 


Mistake #3 - Being Fearful to Test for Damages

Allowing defense counsel to evaluate liability and assess the potential range of awards is yet another benefit to conducting a mock trial. Although it is true that most cases will settle, a mock trial can provide real data upon which to make settlement decisions, and being fearful to test for damages is a common mistake made by defense attorneys.

With a clearer view of what the case is worth, defense attorneys can use the data from the mock trial as a tool to prevent nuclear verdicts as well as a tool for mediation and future negotiations. However, to get the most useful insight, it is also crucial to accurately predict damages, which is best achieved by averaging potential damages across juries and not across individuals.


Mock trials have the potential to help trial attorneys examine their cases, evaluate witnesses, and explore damages, but only if they are able to alleviate these common mistakes. At Courtroom Sciences, we can help mitigate uncertainty by providing research expertise and science-backed data that lead to predictive results and superior outcomes. Speak with one of our experts to get started.


Key Takeaways

●  Mitigate risks by avoiding three common and crucial mock trial mistakes. 

●  The most advantageous mock trials require that the opposing side is well represented.

●  Mock trials are an invaluable tool to evaluate juror impressions of witnesses.

●  A mock trial can provide a clearer view of what the case is worth to guide settlement decisions and liability and damages estimates.

●  Courtroom Sciences can help trial attorneys conduct realistic mock trials to produce invaluable data that leads to more favorable outcomes.

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