How Lawyers' Intuitions Prolong Litigation
Andrew J. Wistrich
California Central District Court
Jeffrey J. Rachlinski
Cornell Law School
July 17, 2013
Southern California Law Review, Vol. 86, No. 571, 2013
Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-91
Most lawsuits settle, but some settle later than they should. Too many compromises occur only after protracted discovery and expensive motion practice. Sometimes the delay precludes settlement altogether. Why does this happen? Several possibilities — such as the alleged greed of lawyers paid on an hourly basis — have been suggested, but they are insufficient to explain why so many cases do not settle until the eve of trial. We offer a novel account of the phenomenon of settling on the courthouse steps that is based upon empirical research concerning judgment and choice. Several cognitive illusions — the framing effect, the confirmation bias, nonconsequentialist reasoning, and the sunk-cost fallacy — produce intuitions in lawyers that can induce them to postpone serious settlement negotiations or to reject settlement proposals that should be accepted. Lawyers’ tendencies to rely excessively on intuition exacerbate the impact of those cognitive illusions. The experiments presented in this Article indicate that the vulnerability of experienced lawyers to these cognitive errors can prolong litigation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 67
Date posted: July 18, 2013 ; Last revised: October 19, 2013
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