Insightful or Wishful: Lawyers' Ability to Predict Case Outcomes
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 16, No. 2, p. 133, 2010
26 Pages Posted: 13 May 2010 Last revised: 26 Jul 2011
Date Written: May 1, 2010
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
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