Publication Date

2010

Publication Title

Stanford Law Review

Abstract

Studying the legal profession poses several challenges. The evolution of law has moved lawyers away from a generalist practice towards increased specialization. This makes it difficult to compare lawyers across different practice areas meaningfully and to provide a comprehensive assessment of the legal profession. Judges are well situated to provide such an evaluation, given their experience and scope of cases. This Article reports the responses of federal and state judges to a survey we conducted in 2008. The questions relate to their perceptions of the quality of legal representation, generally and in criminal and civil cases; how the quality of legal representation influences how they and juries decide cases; and their recommendations for change in the profession. We find that judges perceive significant disparities in the quality of legal representation, both within and across areas of the law. In many instances, the underlying causes of these disparities can be traced to the resources of the litigants. The judges' responses also suggest that they respond differently than juries to these disparities, and that the effect of these disparities on juries may be more pronounced in civil than in criminal cases.

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