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A Model of Cause Lawyering

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This paper is an economic analysis of cause lawyering, in which lawyers seek social change through the courts. The lawyer’s litigation strategy consists of deciding how many steps in the law to ask the court to move at a single moment. We find that more intense advocates prefer to ask for a series of small steps to move the law. We also investigate how the Supreme Court’s doctrine responds to advocacy in lower courts. We find that when facing intense advocates, a Supreme Court is more likely to issue constraining doctrine. We link the findings from the model to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s litigation strategy for eradicating the doctrine of separate but equal.

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