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« Victorian Literature, Statistics Style | Main | discrepancies in criminal sentencing »

15 December 2010

experiments and legal representation

Here's a neat new article called "What Difference Representation?" by Jim Greiner (Harvard Law School) and Cassandra Wolos Pattanayak (Harvard Statistics Department). What Greiner & Wolos Pattanayak have done is is randomize clients calling into a free legal aid clinic into two groups: one group was offered free legal representation by trained students at Harvard Law School, while the second group was not. Not only is the experimental design pretty interesting, but it's hard to overstate how novel this is -- and how unusual it is for a group of lawyers (lawyers-to-be, in this case) to agree to participate in this kind of an experiment.

A basic summary of the results: an offer of free legal representation by an elite cadre of Harvard Law Students does not increase the probability that a client will prevail in his or or her claim. (There was a .04 increase in probability of prevailing, not statistically significant.) What the offer of free legal representation does do, however, is increase the delay that clients experience in the adjudication. (The mean time to adjudication for the treated population was 53.1 days versus 37.3 days for the control group, a statistically significant sixteen-day difference.)

Pretty interesting stuff.

Posted by Maya Sen at December 15, 2010 10:10 AM