Very interesting looking research popped up on the ELS blog: What Difference Representation? byD. James Greiner (Harvard Law School) andCassandra Wolos Pattanayak (Harvard University – Department of Statistics)
Here’s the abstract:
We report the results of the first in a series of randomized control trials designed to measure the effect of an offer of, and the actual use of, legal representation. The results are startling. In the context of administrative litigation to determine eligibility for unemployment benefits, a service provider’s offer of representation to a claimant had no statistically significant effect on the claimant’s probability of a victory, but the offer caused a delay in the proceeding. Because a substantial percentage of the provider’s client base consisted of claimants who were initially denied benefits but who would have that initial denial reversed as a result of the litigation, the delay an offer of representation caused inflicted a harm upon such claimants in the form of an additional waiting time for benefits to begin, this with no concomitant increase in the probability of a favorable outcome. In other words, these claimants would have been better off without the offer of representation. Other classes of claimants were unaffected, but in cases with a certain profile, the delay hurt the financing of the unemployment system, again with no concomitant benefit in the probability of a favorable outcome for the claimant. We were also able to verify a delay effect due to the actual use of (as opposed to an offer of) representation; we could come to no firm conclusion on the effect of actual use of representation on win/loss. Stepping back, we use these results as a springboard for a comprehensive review of the quantitative literature on the effect of representation in civil proceedings. We find that this literature provides virtually no credible information, excepting the results of two randomized evaluations occurring in different legal contexts and separated by over three decades. We conclude by advocating for, and describing challenges associated with, a large program of randomized evaluation of the provision of representation, particularly by legal services providers.
The paper can be downloaded here. It’s very quantitative and the findings are described on the ELS blog as ‘liley [to] startle many’. On a quick look it involved an RCT. Some literature seemed to be missing, no reference to Sandefur’s meta-analysis or quite a bit of work outside the USA, but very interesting nonetheless.