My Surrogate Jury Experience

By - November, 2013

Serving on a mock jury sounds more like an activity from a high school or college class than something one might actually get paid for. In researching and writing about this for one of my websites, I previously wrote, "Although I have seen claims online that you can make up to $50 per case, this is unlikely." Well, I do tend to be a bit skeptical, and apparently I spoke too soon, since I was recently paid not $50, but $150 for one day as a mock juror (also known as a "surrogate juror").

Mock Jury(Flickr photo by ZZPZA)

It was a long day, starting at 7:00 in the morning and continuing until 5:00 that afternoon. Fortunately they fed us a decent lunch and allowed us to take a few bathroom breaks.

A mock jury is simply a tool used by either the plaintiff attorneys or defense attorneys in order to see how a case might play out in a courtroom. In addition to hearing both sides of the case, and making decisions about who should prevail and to what extent (how much money should be awarded), jurors are questioned about the reasons for their judgments and their impressions of the attorneys, defendants and plaintiffs, so arguments and presentations can be refined prior to entering an actual courtroom. Of course, depending on how the mock trial goes, the case may be dropped or a settlement reached instead of proceeding to trial.

I will not be telling you about the case we listened to. We had to sign a confidentiality agreement, promising not to reveal anything about the case to anyone outside of this "study group." We were told that if someone asked us what we did that day we could go ahead and tell them, but that we had to withhold any of the details of the case itself. So I am going to be a bit vague about what happened, and will not even mention the date when I participated, or the location of the event. I will tell you that these are not cheap things to arrange, since there were well over twenty of us and we were paid $150 each. There were also numerous employees of the company that arranges these mock trials, and a several rooms had to be rented.

I was instructed to arrive at 7:00 a.m., and to dress "business casual." I'm not sure what that means, so I wore slacks, a button shirt and a tie. I removed the tie after a while, since only two of us were wearing one. The day was long, but interesting. We heard the presentation of the plaintiff's attorney (or one acting as that -- we never did know who hired this company to do this or which were the real attorneys in the case), then the defense presentation, and then the plaintiff's final argument. This took a few hours. Afterward we ate lunch and then were separated into two groups to discuss the case and render a verdict.

I cannot say much more about the process, but it was a fascinating experience, perhaps even more so once the presentations were over and the discussions started. Not everyone remembers the same things, and minds are changed as the jurors talk.

This is one reason why I think the more common online mock juries are not nearly as useful to attorneys. Reading the presentations online and then answering questions is not the same as hearing the lawyers speak and then discussing it all with others, as one would do in a real trial. As I said, minds are changed by these discussions.

Of course it is cheaper to use the companies that present the case online. They pay as little as $5 and as much as $60 to participants. The online mock juries are arranged through many websites like and I plan to sign up for some of these just to see what the process is and whether any of them might be worth the time. One site says participants average only 35 minutes for to read through a case and answer questions, which, if true, might make it a fun way to make $10. Another website I recently researched pays a minimum of $20 per case, but I don't recall how long their cases take to go through.

In any case, I was happy to spend the day in an interesting way and get a check for $150 at the end of it. I will sign up again if the opportunity arises. Keep in mind that in most places real jurors only get paid $20 or so for their inconvenience. Maybe if that changed there wouldn't be so many people trying to get out of jury duty.

If you want to do this just search "mock jury" online and you'll find some places where you can sign up for the internet version. The "live" versions are often advertised in newspaper classified and even on You have a better chance of participating if you live in or near a larger city, of course, because these "studies" are done for real cases, and there are generally more lawsuits (and higher-dollar cases) where there is more population.

Note: To read more about the online opportunities to be a surrogate juror, see the following recently updated page: Serve on an Online Mock Jury

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