Why Trial Lawyers Make Great Market Researchers

Sometimes having a better product isn’t enough—you also need a better story.

Particularly when you have to pry market share away from a competitor that’s been the entrenched leader for years. We saw this play out recently when a client launched a revolutionary new oncology drug. It looked great on paper. The data was there—better efficacy, a decent safety profile, convenient dosing. But at launch, adoption by physicians was slow and it fell well below forecast.  It was clear that this was a messaging problem.  To resolve this dilemma, we had to better understand what separated the adopters from the rejecters—a challenge tailor made for our Guided Deliberations™ method.

Guided Deliberations™—A Backgrounder

S+R Guided Deliberations™ is the marriage of traditional focus groups and jury research. Back in the 1980s our founder, Leo J. Shapiro, worked with his fellow University of Chicago social scientists to use focus group methods to shape jury research. Lawyers used it basically as segmentation: finding the “right jurors” that would be most sympathetic to their case.  They quickly learned that finding the right jurors is only half the battle—you also must find the right message. So being the master storytellers that trial lawyers tend to be, jury research evolved from jury selection to testing the strength of evidence and shaping arguments that would help them win. They did this by presenting their case and letting their mock juries deliberate among themselves to bring a verdict.

If you think about it—it’s the same for marketers. We can identify the best audience and present our most compelling case but in the end—the market decides who wins in the court of consumer preference. So why not use the same jury deliberation techniques in the market research world? That’s precisely what our Guided Deliberations™ method does.

When juries deliberate—there is no moderator. It’s about a group of people, all of whom have received the same information and who likely have different opinions, working together to come to a consensus. That requires participants to make make their own arguments to their peers about why they are for or against something. This debate uncovers actual customer language on sticking points and tipping points and what to do about them.



Guided Deliberations™ in Action

For our pharmaceutical client that needed to find a way to meet their launch forecast , we employed Guided Deliberations™ by bringing together physicians who had adopted the new second-gen oncology drug and those who had rejected it and remained with the entrenched first-gen competitor. The group was presented with the data that had been communicated in the market at launch and let the physicians debate and then deliberate over treating different patient types. What happened was revealing. The rejecters talked about safety concerns and objections about how the data was presented. The adopters changed the conversation. They started to talk passionately about how this new drug allowed them to meet the individual treatment goals for patients like never before. These physicians made a compelling case, drawing conclusions about superiority (in absence of head-to-head data) that ultimately overcame the rejecters’ objections. When they were able to articulate their thinking in a compelling way that the physicians could relate to, the group ultimately reached the consensus that the new drug was superior. When they could not, the group got stuck.  The keys to a better messaging strategy were revealed.

As a result of this research, and using the language that came from the deliberations, our client went from merely presenting the trial data to crafting a narrative that linked the data to helping physicians meeting their treatment goals. The outcome was remarkable. Once they implemented their new strategy, it accelerated year-over-year growth resulting in 46 percent increase by year two.


S+R Guided Deliberations™ is a powerful tool that resolves messaging dilemmas. Just like lawyers who must find arguments that fit in with jurors’ psychological needs, marketers must identify messages that are consistent with the problems they are trying to solve. By bringing together people with disparate points of view and getting out of their way we start to reveal true insights that can lead to market moving strategies.