Saturday, May 19, 2007

What Difference Do Attorneys Make?

What difference does it making being represented by an attorney? It's a big question, but two scholars took a stab at it by looking at a particular subset of cases: those filed in U.S. Tax Court, where many taxpayers represent themselves (but the government is always represented by counsel).

Leandra Lederman & Warren B. Hrung, Do Attorneys Do Their Clients Justice? An Empirical Study of Lawyers' Effects on Tax Court Litigation Outcomes, 41 Wake Forest L. Rev. 1235 (2006). The findings (as summarized in the authors' abstract):

Interestingly, the study found that the presence of an attorney for the taxpayer significantly improved the taxpayer's financial outcome in tried cases, an effect that increased with the experience of the attorney. No such effect existed in settled cases. Although the latter result initially is surprising, it highlights the paramount importance of procedural expertise in formal trial proceedings, as opposed to negotiations with the opposing party. The study also found that the presence of an attorney for the taxpayer did not affect time elapsed to trial or settlement. Thus, the study found that taxpayers' attorneys, who generally are paid by the hour, neither prolonged disputes nor expedited their resolution but did significantly improve the financial outcomes of the cases they tried.

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