[gov3009-l] Wolos Pattanayak on "What Difference Representation?”

Matt Blackwell mblackwell at iq.harvard.edu
Tue Feb 15 10:07:54 EST 2011


We  hope you can join us tomorrow, Wednesday, February 16th at the
Applied Statistics Workshop when we will be happy to have Cassandra
Wolos Pattanayak presenting joint work with Jim Greiner. Their paper
focuses on an experiment where offers of legal representation were
randomized to claimants. You will find an abstract and a link to the
paper below. As usual, the workshop will begin at 12 noon with lunch
and wrap up at 1:30.

"What Difference Representation?” (with Jim Greiner)
Cassandra Wolos Pattanayak
Harvard Department of Statistics
February 16th, 2011, 12 noon
K354 CGIS Knafel (1737 Cambridge St)

Paper: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1708664&download=yes

We report the results of the first in a series of randomized control
trials designed to measure the effect of an offer of, and the actual
use of, legal representation. The results are unexpected. In the
context of administrative litigation to determine eligibility for
unemployment benefits, a service provider’s offer of representation to
a claimant had no statistically significant effect on the claimant’s
probability of a victory, but the offer caused a delay in the
proceeding. Because a substantial percentage of the provider’s client
base consisted of claimants who were initially denied benefits but who
would have that initial denial reversed as a result of the litigation,
the offer of representation inflicted a harm upon such claimants in
the form of an additional waiting time for benefits to begin, this
with no discernible increase in the probability of a favorable
outcome. In other words, within the limits of statistical uncertainty,
these claimants would have been better off without the offer of
representation. The size of the delay (a median effect of about 16
days, depending on how measured) was not large in absolute terms, and
would be negligible in many other legal settings, but was relevant in
the context of this particular administrative and legal framework, one
in which speed has remained an extraordinary concern for decades.
Moreover, in a small number of cases with a certain profile, the delay
caused the unemployment system to continue paying benefits erroneously
for a longer period of time, potentially imposing costs on the
financing of the unemployment system. We were also able to verify a
delay effect due to the actual use of (as opposed to an offer of)
representation; we could come to no firm conclusion on the effect of
actual use of representation on win loss.

We caution against both over- and under-generalization of these study
results. Stepping back, we use these results as a springboard for a
comprehensive review of the quantitative literature on the effect of
representation in civil proceedings. We find that this literature
provides virtually no credible information, excepting the results of
two randomized evaluations occurring in different legal contexts and
separated by over three decades. We conclude by advocating for, and
describing challenges associated with, a large program of randomized
evaluation of the provision of representation, particularly by legal
services providers.

Matthew Blackwell
PhD Candidate
Institute for Quantitative Social Science
Department of Government
Harvard University
url: http://people.fas.harvard.edu/~blackwel/

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