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Individual Projects.

“Are Lawyers' Case Selection Decisions
Biased? A Field Experiment on Access
to Justice”

Jens Frankenreiter, Michael A. Livermore


The attorney-client relationship is pivotal in providing access to courts. This paper presents results from a large-scale field experiment exploring how demographic information (encoded in potential clients' names) affects how attorneys respond to initial inquiries in private injury cases. On the basis of prior literature, we hypothesize that race is a significant factor, but we also explore race and gender interactions. We find that ostensibly Black or Hispanic inquirers receive fewer responses than ostensibly White inquirers, a result largely driven by preferential treatment of White female inquirers. The racial disparities are larger than those previously documented in contexts such as public services but smaller than in contexts such as employment. We also find suggestive evidence that White attorneys are more likely than others to treat White inquirers preferentially, which implies that the differences in response rates are not merely a reaction to jurisdiction-level factors affecting lawsuits' expected payoffs.

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