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13 July 2007

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This is terribly misguided. First, the study ignores that law school ranking works as a proxy for lawyering skills when you haven't any experience. But 10 years out from law school, such proxies are irrelevant. David Boies and Will E. Gary and Gerry Spence went to different law schools, but each knows how to try a million dollar case successfully. Second, the focus on wages is totally off-base

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"It appears that public defenders on average have higher experience and a wider distribution. Many panel attorneys have less than 10 years experience, but there is a cluster of attorneys with about 15 years experience and another cluster with about 25 years of experience. These are the attorneys that frequently handle the more difficult or highly technical cases and are, in some cases, former public defenders or well established criminal defense attorneys. In addition, public defenders appear to be from higher ranked law schools. Relative to the overall population of lawyers, CJA attorneys are less experienced and attended lower quality law schools while Federal Public Defenders are more experienced and attended higher quality law schools."

This is terribly misguided. First, the study ignores that law school ranking works as a proxy for lawyering skills when you haven't any experience. But 10 years out from law school, such proxies are irrelevant. David Boies and Will E. Gary and Gerry Spence went to different law schools, but each knows how to try a million dollar case successfully. Second, the focus on wages is totally off-base. No CJA attorney is taking the case to make a profit. Higher or lower wages would not make the cases more or less attractive or increase or decrease the desire to win or the quality of the services provided. The cases are taken out of personal obligation and for goodwill publicity. Winning a case leads to better publicity (and feels better). Third, many CJA attorneys are former prosecutors and federal defenders. That's why they qualify for the CJA panel. It is true the salaried public defenders may interact with judges and prosecutors more often, but that could lead to more plea bargains that shouldn't have been made and I see no empirics on that counterpoint.

anon

This study will cause some in power to *reduce* the number of public defenders. Getting criminals back on the street isn't necessarily a good thing.

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