Plaintiff-Side Representation in Medical Malpractice Litigation: Market Structure and the Wages of Risk
27 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2015 Last revised: 16 Oct 2015
Date Written: October 15, 2015
Most of what we know about the market for plaintiff-side representation in medical malpractice litigation is qualitative and impressionistic. This makes it difficult to answer even the most basic questions about market structure. How often do plaintiffs proceed pro se? Are there litigation “hot-spots” within a state? Do a few firms dominate the market, or is it relatively un-concentrated? How much variation is there in injury severity in the cases handled by different firms? Where did top plaintiffs’ lawyers go to school – and how do they market their services? How large are the “wages of risk” – i.e., the premium that plaintiffs’ lawyers receive compared to the defense lawyers handling the same case? And so on. Using a dataset of every medical malpractice case closed in Illinois during 2000-2010, we show that most plaintiffs do have a lawyer – and we quantify the market share, case mix, and amount recovered by the 1,317 law firms and lawyers that handled cases in this space. We use these results to sort firms by total recoveries (i.e., by firm-level), and generate a league table of the most successful firms. At all firms, a small number of cases account for a heavily disproportionate share of total recoveries. The market for plaintiff-side representation is simultaneously un-concentrated and highly stratified, and the wages of risk are disproportionately captured by firms at the top of the recovery spectrum. The most successful plaintiffs’ lawyers attended a handful of non-elite city law schools, have offices in a 1.5 mile radius in downtown Chicago, and advertise only in publications aimed at other lawyers.
Keywords: contingency fee, wages of risk, plaintiffs' lawyers, medical malpractice
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