Predicting Civil Jury Verdicts: How Attorneys Use (and Misuse) a Second Opinion

21 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2011

See all articles by Jonas Jacobson

Jonas Jacobson

Trial Behavior Consulting, Inc. ; Stanford University

Jasmine Dobbs-Marsh

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Varda Liberman

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Julia A. Minson

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Date Written: December 2011

Abstract

When predicting potential jury verdicts, trial attorneys often seek second opinions from other attorneys. But how much weight do they give to these opinions, and how optimally do they use them? In a four-round estimation task developed by Liberman et al. (under review), pairs of law students and pairs of experienced trial attorneys estimated actual jury verdicts. When participants were given access to a partner's estimates, participants' accuracy improved in both groups. However, participants in both groups underweighted their partners' estimates relative to their own, with experienced attorneys giving less weight to their partners' opinions than did law students. In doing so, participants failed to reap the full benefits of statistical aggregation. In both groups, requiring partners to reach agreement on a joint estimate improved accuracy. This benefit was then largely retained when participants gave final individual estimates. In a further analysis, we randomly sampled estimates of various-sized groups. The accuracy of mean estimates substantially increased as group size increased, with the largest relative benefit coming from the first additional estimate. We discuss the implications of these findings for the legal profession and for the study of individual versus collective estimation.

Suggested Citation

Jacobson, Jonas and Dobbs-Marsh, Jasmine and Liberman, Varda and Minson, Julia A., Predicting Civil Jury Verdicts: How Attorneys Use (and Misuse) a Second Opinion (December 2011). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 8, pp. 99-119, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1963629 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1740-1461.2011.01229.x

Jonas Jacobson (Contact Author)

Trial Behavior Consulting, Inc. ( email )

505 Sansome St.
Suite 1701
San Francisco, CA 94111
United States

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Jasmine Dobbs-Marsh

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Varda Liberman

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Julia A. Minson

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3733 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6374
United States

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