Does Lawyering Matter? Predicting Judicial Decisions from Legal Briefs, and What That Means for Access to Justice

45 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2021

See all articles by Elizabeth Chika Tippett

Elizabeth Chika Tippett

University of Oregon School of Law

Charlotte Alexander

Georgia State University – Institute for Insight; Georgia State University College of Law

L. Karl Branting

University of Wyoming

Date Written: March 24, 2021

Abstract

This study uses linguistic analysis and machine learning techniques to predict summary judgment outcomes from the text of the parties’ briefs. We test the predictive power of textual characteristics, stylistic features, and citation usage, and find that citations to precedent – their frequency, their patterns, and their popularity in other briefs – are the most predictive of a summary judgment win. This suggests that good lawyering may boil down to good legal research. However, good legal research is expensive, and the primacy of citations in our models raises concerns about access to justice. Here, our citation-based models also suggest promising solutions. We propose a freely available, computationally-enabled citation identification and brief bank tool, which would extend to all litigants the benefits of good lawyering and open up access to justice.

Keywords: machine learning, access to justice, text analytics, summary judgment, employment law, employment discrimination

Suggested Citation

Tippett, Elizabeth Chika and Alexander, Charlotte and Branting, L. Karl, Does Lawyering Matter? Predicting Judicial Decisions from Legal Briefs, and What That Means for Access to Justice (March 24, 2021). Texas Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3811710

Elizabeth Chika Tippett (Contact Author)

University of Oregon School of Law ( email )

1515 Agate Street
Eugene, OR Oregon 97403
United States
541-346-8938 (Phone)

Charlotte Alexander

Georgia State University – Institute for Insight ( email )

Tower Place 200, Third Floor
3348 Peachtree Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30326
United States

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

L. Karl Branting

University of Wyoming

Box 3434 University Station
Laramie, WY 82071
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
81
Abstract Views
351
rank
372,188
PlumX Metrics