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Lawyers as Agents of the Devil in a Prisoner's Dilemma Game: Evidence from Long Run Play

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Author Info

  • Ashenfelter, Orley

    ()
    (Princeton University)

  • Bloom, David E.

    ()
    (Harvard University)

  • Dahl, Gordon B.

    ()
    (University of California, San Diego)

Abstract

Do the parties in a typical dispute face incentives similar to those in the classic prisoner's dilemma game? In this paper, we explore whether the costs and benefits of legal representation are such that each party seeks legal representation in the hope of exploiting the other party, while knowing full well that failing to do so will open up the possibility of being exploited. The paper first shows how it is possible to test for the presence of such an incentive structure in a typical dispute resolution system. It then reports estimates of the incentives for the parties to obtain legal representation in wage disputes that were settled by final-offer arbitration in New Jersey. The paper also reports briefly on similar studies of data from discharge grievances, court-annexed disputes in Pittsburgh, and child custody disputes in California. In each case, the data provide evidence that the parties face strong individual incentives to obtain legal representation which makes the parties jointly worse off. Using our New Jersey data, we find that expert agents may well have played a productive role in moderating the biases of their clients, but only early on in the history of the system. Over time, the parties slowly evolved to a non-cooperative equilibrium where the use of lawyers becomes nearly universal, despite the fact that agreeing not to hire lawyers is cheaper and does not appear to alter arbitration outcomes.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 7245.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 2013, 10 (3), 399-423
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7245

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Keywords: arbitration; prisoner's dilemma; lawyers;

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References

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  1. Kritikos, Alexander S., 2005. "The Impact of Compulsory Arbitration on Bargaining Behavior: An Experimental Study," Discussion Papers 230, European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder), Department of Business Administration and Economics.
  2. I.P.L. P'ng, 1983. "Strategic Behavior in Suit, Settlement, and Trial," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(2), pages 539-550, Autumn.
  3. Orley Ashenfelter & Janet Currie & Henry S. Farber & Matthew Spiegel, 1990. "An Experimental Comparison of Dispute Rates in Alternative Arbitration Systems," Working Papers 647, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  4. Henry S. Farber & Harry C. Katz, 1979. "Interest arbitration, outcomes, and the incentive to bargain," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 33(1), pages 55-63, October.
  5. Jennifer F. Reinganum & Louise L. Wilde, 1986. "Settlement, Litigation, and the Allocation of Litigation Costs," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(4), pages 557-566, Winter.
  6. Farber, Henry S & Bazerman, Max H, 1986. "The General Basis of Arbitrator Behavior: An Empirical Analysis of Conventional and Final-Offer Arbitration," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(6), pages 1503-28, November.
  7. Spier, Kathryn E, 1994. "Settlement Bargaining and the Design of Damage Awards," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(1), pages 84-95, April.
  8. Dana, James D, Jr & Spier, Kathryn E, 1993. "Expertise and Contingent Fees: The Role of Asymmetric Information in Attorney Compensation," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(2), pages 349-67, October.
  9. Bloom, David E, 1986. "Empirical Models of Arbitrator Behavior under Conventional Arbitration," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 68(4), pages 578-85, November.
  10. Farber, Henry S & Bazerman, Max H, 1986. "The General Basis of Arbitrator Behavior: An Empirical Analysis of Conventional and Final-Offer Arbitration," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(4), pages 819-44, July.
  11. Lucian Arye Bebchuk, 1984. "Litigation and Settlement under Imperfect Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(3), pages 404-415, Autumn.
  12. Katz, Avery, 1988. "Judicial decisionmaking and litigation expenditure," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 127-143, December.
  13. George L. Priest & Benjamin Klein, 1984. "The Selection of Disputes for Litigation," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(1), pages 1-56, January.
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Cited by:
  1. R. Marselli & M. Vannini & BC. McCannon, 2013. "Bargaining in the Shadow of Arbitration," Working Paper CRENoS 201309, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.

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