Are lawyers any good at predicting the outcomes of their cases?


No. They’re overconfident. And they don’t get any better with experience. Female lawyers are slightly better than males:

Lawyers’ litigation forecasts play an integral role in the justice system. In the course of litigation, lawyers constantly make strategic decisions and/or advise their clients on the basis of their perceptions and predictions of case outcomes. The study investigated the realism in predictions by a sample of attorneys (n = 481) across the United States who specified a minimum goal to achieve in a case set for trial. They estimated their chances of meeting this goal by providing a confidence estimate. After the cases were resolved, case outcomes were compared with the predictions. Overall, lawyers were overconfident in their predictions, and calibration did not increase with years of legal experience. Female lawyers were slightly better calibrated than their male counterparts and showed evidence of less overconfidence. In an attempt to reduce overconfidence, some lawyers were asked to generate reasons why they might not achieve their stated goals. This manipulation did not improve calibration.

Source: “Insightful or wishful: Lawyers’ ability to predict case outcomes” from Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol 16(2), May 2010, 133-157.

I’ve posted a good amount on the law and crime. You may want to read my post: You just committed murder. What should you do now?

Great nonfiction books about breaking the law are “Low Life”, “Homicide”, “The Big Con”, Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate, The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison, Donnie Brasco and Wiseguy, which inspired GoodFellas.

“Caught Stealing” is the best crime fiction I’ve read in a long time. Charlie Huston is a harder, grittier, faster-paced Elmore Leonard.

Related posts:

Can watching TV crime dramas distort perception of the criminal justice system?

Does the NFL Combine Actually Predict Performance in the National Football League?

Do doctors who fear lawsuits work less?

Why you should only reference low numbers when you’re on trial for murder:

Does it work when a defendant tries to excuse away crimes by saying he was abused as a child?

Are attractive people less likely to be convicted of a crime and more likely to get a shorter sentence?

How would the law punish Siamese twins if one committed murder without the other being involved?

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