By: Jeffrey J. Rachlinski and Emily Taylor Poppe. Published by: Pepperdine Law Review. Published in: June 2016
Questions surrounding the efficacy of legal representation have raised considerable concern about the role of attorneys in civil cases. Some recent studies suggest lawyers offer little benefit and may even contribute to negative results. After reviewing the massive body of research that has measured lawyers’ success in cases that involve juveniles, housing, administrative hearings/government benefits, employment law, family law, small claims, tax, bankruptcy, and torts, this study indicates that professional legal representation overall benefits litigants. Substantial evidence pointing toward futile or adverse results due to the use of an attorney was only found within cases involving juveniles and some contexts regarding claims to government benefits. Moreover, it is noteworthy to mention that disparities in success rates may be due to attorney screening procedures as well as the tendency to pursue professional counsel in more serious cases. Further research will be required to understand the complex array of benefits that legal representation offers within the context of civil disputes.