In a pair of related, though distinct, papers, Jim Greiner (Harvard Law), Cassandra Pattanayak (Harvard--Stats), and Jonathan Hennessy (Harvard--Stats) seek to exploit randomized selection in a challenging effort to explore the efficacy of legal representation. Findings from the two studies point in slightly different directions.
In Limits of Unbundled Legal Assistance: a Randomized Study In A Massachusetts District Court and Prospects for the Future and How Effective Are Limited Legal Assistance Programs? A Randomized Experiment in a Massachusetts Housing Court the authors present results from a studies that share a setting-- summary eviction in Massachusetts. Specifically, the authors "persuaded entities conducting two civil Gideon pilot programs to randomize which potential clients would receive offers of traditional attorney-client relationships from professional service provider staff attorneys and which would receive only limited (“unbundled”) assistance. In both pilot programs potential clients were defendants in housing eviction proceedings, and both programs were oversubscribed."
"In the District Court Study, almost all study-eligible eviction defendants received limited assistance in the form of help in filling out answer and discovery request forms, and most also attended an instructional session on the summary eviction process. After receiving this limited assistance, each member of a randomly selected treated group received an offer of a traditional attorney-client relationship from one of the legal services provider’s staff attorneys; each member of the corresponding randomly selected control group received no such offer.... At least for the clientele involved in this District Court Study, a clientele recruited and chosen by the service provider’s proactive, timely, specific, and selective outreach and intake system, an offer of full representation mattered."
"In the Housing Court Study, all study-eligible potential clients could (and most did) receive assistance in filling out answers and discovery requests. In addition, occupants not offered a traditional attorney-client relationship from the provider's staff attorneys, the control group, received a referral to that provider's lawyer for the day program. The lawyer for the day program provided same-day-only representation in hallway settlement negotiations and mediation sessions but not in court appearances or in filing motions.... We find no statistically significant evidence that the service provider's offer of full, as opposed to limited, representation had a large (or any) effect on the likelihood that the occupant would retain possession, on the financial consequences of the case, on judicial involvement in or attention to cases, or on any other litigation-related outcome of substantive import. To the contrary, treated and control group point estimates are close to one another."