Insightful or Wishful: Lawyers' Ability to Predict Case Outcomes

Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 16, No. 2, p. 133, 2010

UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2010-16

26 Pages Posted: 13 May 2010 Last revised: 26 Jul 2011

See all articles by Jane Goodman-Delahunty

Jane Goodman-Delahunty

Charles Sturt University - Australian Graduate School of Policing

Par Anders Granhag

Göteborg University

Maria Hartwig

CUNY, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Elizabeth F. Loftus

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior; University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: May 1, 2010

Abstract

Lawyers’ litigation forecasts play an integral role in the justice system. In the course of litigation, lawyers constantly make strategic decisions and/or advise their clients on the basis of their perceptions and predictions of case outcomes. The study investigated the realism in predictions by a sample of attorneys (n=481) across the United States who specified a minimum goal to achieve in a case set for trial. They estimated their chances of meeting this goal by providing a confidence estimate. After the cases were resolved, case outcomes were compared with the predictions. Overall, lawyers were overconfident in their predictions, and calibration did not increase with years of legal experience. Female lawyers were slightly better calibrated than their male counterparts and showed evidence of less overconfidence. In an attempt to reduce overconfidence, some lawyers were asked to generate reasons why they might not achieve their stated goals. This manipulation did not improve calibration.

Keywords: Legal Decision Making, Case Predictions, Confidence Judgments, Metacognitive Realism

Suggested Citation

Goodman-Delahunty, Jane and Granhag, Par Anders and Hartwig, Maria and Loftus, Elizabeth F., Insightful or Wishful: Lawyers' Ability to Predict Case Outcomes (May 1, 2010). Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 16, No. 2, p. 133, 2010; UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2010-16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1605487

Jane Goodman-Delahunty

Charles Sturt University - Australian Graduate School of Policing ( email )

Manly, NSW, 2088
Australia

Par Anders Granhag

Göteborg University ( email )

Gothenburg
Sweden

Maria Hartwig

CUNY, John Jay College of Criminal Justice ( email )

695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
United States

Elizabeth F. Loftus (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior ( email )

4201 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-7085
United States

University of California, Irvine School of Law

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

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