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
Date Written: July 1, 2009
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: Suggested Citation