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Attorney Expertise, Litigant Success, and Judicial Decision Making in the U.S. Courts of Appeals

Law & Society Review, Vol. 33, pp. 667-686, 1999

20 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2009 Last revised: 22 Nov 2011

Susan Haire

University of Georgia

Roger E. Hartley

University of Baltimore

Stefanie A. Lindquist

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law

Date Written: July 1, 2009

Abstract

In the U.S. legal system, litigants frequently retain counsel to represent their interest in civil cases, particularly when the stakes are high. Scholarly work and anecdotal evidence suggest that variation in the quality of advocacy has the potential to affect litigant success. We examine the relationship between attorney characteristics, case outcomes, and judicial voting in products liability decisions of the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Our analysis found some differences in the levels of experience and specialization of counsel, representing defendants and plaintiffs and that counsel expertise was, at times, related to litigant success. In a multivariate model of decision making, judge were less likely to support the position of plaintiffs when they were represented by counsel appearing for the first time before the circuit. When defendants were represented by attorneys who did not specialize in relevant areas of the law, judges were more likely to decide in favor of the plaintiff. These finding suggest that those attorneys who do not meet a minimum threshold of expertise will be less likely to find judicial support for their client than other attorneys. Such attorneys may be less successful as a result of their lack of familiarity with the law and appellate process or because they make poor choices regarding the likelihood of success on appeal.

Keywords: litigant expertise, litigant success, attorney, attorney expertise, attorney expertise, specialization, products liability, civil cases, U.S. Courts of Appeals, Circuit Courts of Appeals, experience

Suggested Citation

Haire, Susan and Hartley, Roger E. and Lindquist, Stefanie A., Attorney Expertise, Litigant Success, and Judicial Decision Making in the U.S. Courts of Appeals (July 1, 2009). Law & Society Review, Vol. 33, pp. 667-686, 1999. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1428566

Susan Haire (Contact Author)

University of Georgia ( email )

Athens, GA 30602-6254
United States

Roger E. Hartley

University of Baltimore ( email )

Baltimore, MD 21214
United States
828-458-0944 (Phone)

Stefanie A. Lindquist

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States
512-232-1319 (Phone)

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