A Study of the Relationship between Bar Admissions Data and Subsequent Lawyer Discipline

62 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2013 Last revised: 29 Mar 2014

See all articles by Leslie C. Levin

Leslie C. Levin

University of Connecticut School of Law

Christine Zozula

Department of Sociology; University of Connecticut - School of Law; Assistant Professor of Sociology

Peter Siegelman

University of Connecticut - School of Law

Date Written: March 15, 2013

Abstract

The research reported here uses information from the admissions files of lawyers admitted to the Connecticut bar from 1989 to 1992 to compare those who were disciplined with those who were not disciplined. It analyzes information reported during the bar admissions process that may predict later lawyer misconduct including, inter alia, prior criminal history, problem credit history, prior employment history, academic misconduct, substance abuse, and psychological history. The study reveals that many of the responses on the admissions application are statistically associated with an elevated risk of future discipline. Nevertheless, these variables nevertheless make very poor predictors of subsequent misconduct. The explanation for this seeming paradox is that the overall baseline likelihood of discipline is so low (only about 2.5% of the 6,159 lawyers in our cohort). Thus, even if some variable (e.g., having defaulted on a student loan) doubles the likelihood of subsequent disciplinary action — a very strong effect — the probability of subsequent discipline for someone with a student loan default is still only 5%. It seems highly unlikely that any regulator would be comfortable denying admission to an applicant who had only a 5% chance of subsequent discipline. Put differently, even knowing that an applicant has a substantially elevated risk of future discipline is probably not sufficient to justify some kind of corrective or preventative action, given the low baseline risk.

Keywords: Lawyers, Legal Profession, Lawyer Discipline, Regulation, Professions

Suggested Citation

Levin, Leslie C. and Zozula, Christine and Siegelman, Peter, A Study of the Relationship between Bar Admissions Data and Subsequent Lawyer Discipline (March 15, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2258164 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2258164

Leslie C. Levin (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States
860-570-5207 (Phone)

Christine Zozula

Department of Sociology ( email )

Storrs, CT 06269-1063
United States

University of Connecticut - School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

Assistant Professor of Sociology ( email )

RI
United States

Peter Siegelman

University of Connecticut - School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States
860-570-5238 (Phone)
860-570-5242 (Fax)

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