Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2268689
 
 

Citations (9)



 


 



The Luck of the Draw: Using Random Case Assignment to Investigate Attorney Ability


David Abrams


University of Pennsylvania Law School

Albert Yoon


University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

2007

University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 74, No. 4, 2007

Abstract:     
One of the most challenging problems in legal scholarship is the measurement of attorney ability. Measuring attorney ability presents inherent challenges because the nonrandom pairing of attorney and client in most cases makes it difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between attorney ability and case selection. Las Vegas felony case data, provided by the Clark County Office of the Public Defender in Nevada, offer a unique opportunity to compare attorney performance. The office assigns its incoming felony cases randomly among its pool of attorneys, thereby creating a natural experiment free from selection bias. We find substantial heterogeneity in attorney performance that cannot be explained simply by differences in case characteristics, and this heterogeneity correlates with attorneys’ individual observable characteristics. Attorneys with longer tenure in the office achieve better outcomes for the client. We find that a veteran public defender with ten years of experience reduces the average length of incarceration by 17 percent relative to a public defender in her first year. While we find no statistical difference based on law school attended or gender, we find evidence that the public defender’s race correlates with sentence length, with Hispanic attorneys obtaining sentences that were up to 26 percent shorter on average than those obtained by black or white attorneys. We also find evidence suggesting that differences in sentencing may be driven partly by different plea bargaining behavior on the part of the public defenders.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 33

JEL Classification: K14

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Date posted: May 23, 2013  

Suggested Citation

Abrams, David and Yoon, Albert, The Luck of the Draw: Using Random Case Assignment to Investigate Attorney Ability (2007). University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 74, No. 4, 2007. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2268689

Contact Information

David S. Abrams (Contact Author)
University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )
3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
Albert Yoon
University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )
78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada
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