A mock trial is a process in which a simulated trial is conducted. Mock trials are often used for educational purposes, to train lawyers and judges, or to research the effects of law reform. Mock trials are typically conducted in a courtroom, with a judge, jury, and lawyers. Participants may include experts or witnesses who are called to testify. Comparatively, a focus group is a small, in-person gathering of people who are asked about their opinions on a particular topic. Judges and attorneys may use focus groups to get feedback on proposed court policies or to get input on how potential jurors might react to certain cases. The information gathered from a focus group can help judges and attorneys make better decisions when it comes to court cases.
Let’s discuss the 5 different features of mock trial vs. focus group in courts.
- Instructions Given
In a mock trial, the participants are instructed to act as if they were really jurors. They may even be given scripts to read from, with some lines provided by attorneys on either side of the case. The goal is to recreate what it would feel like to be a juror so that the attorneys have an accurate idea of how effective their presentations are and what might need to change before they go to court. Sometimes, mock juries will sit through full trials, but this is not always the case.
In a focus group, participants are typically given a scenario to discuss and answer questions about. For example, the group might be told that they are jurors in a murder trial, and asked what evidence would change their minds about whether or not the defendant is guilty. This allows them to discuss the facts of the case as it unfolds, sometimes with an attorney or other legal professional moderating. The prosecutor and defense attorneys can point out holes in the participants’ reasoning, and they can also ask questions of their own.
- Formalities Involved
The mock trial involves a more one-sided conversation between the lawyer and the witness (incorporating attorneys who present both sides of the case), while in a focus group, it is typically less formal and may involve more back-and-forth discussion between participants. Focus groups can be held on the spot by simply convening a group of people who are already interested in the topic at hand.
- The Primary Goals
The goal of a mock trial is to test the legal arguments and evidence in a particular case. While the objective of a focus group is typically to get a sense of how the general public would respond to a given scenario. Also, a mock trial is meant to test participants’ understanding of the law and court proceedings, while a focus group is geared towards getting participants’ thoughts and opinions on a certain topic.
- Number of Participants
A mock trial can have anywhere from 15-25 participants, while a focus group is generally smaller with typically around 8-10 participants.
- The Cost of Organizing and Running
The cost of running a mock trial is much higher, as it involves actors and directing as well as extensive preparation from both legal teams and those organizing the event and mainly because of the necessary time and resources that go into finding eligible jurors, organizing litigation documents, etc. These people may be hired by either attorney to offer their professional opinion on the case. In contrast, the cost of organizing and running a focus group is significantly lower since the facilitator does not have to prepare a script or questions. Focus groups can be held on the spot by simply convening a group of people who are already interested in the topic at hand.
Mock trials are not typically recorded because the proceedings are meant to be confidential (unless it is agreed upon by both parties beforehand). However, focus groups are typically recorded because of the valuable feedback participants can provide to the moderator and other researchers.
Overall, mock trials and focus groups are two very different ways of conducting court proceedings. Though they share some similarities, the key distinctions between these two types of hearings are what set them apart. If you’re looking to get a better understanding of the law and court proceedings, a mock trial would be best, while if you’re interested in getting participants’ thoughts and opinions on a certain topic, a focus group is the better option. With this information, you can make an informed decision about which type of hearing is best suited for your needs.