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The dynamics of law clerk matching: An experimental and computational investigation of proposals for reform of the market

  • Haruvy, Ernan
  • Roth, Alvin E.
  • Unver, M. Utku

In September of 1998, the Judicial Conference of the United States abandoned as unsuccessful the attempt—the sixth since 1978—to regulate the dates at which law students are hired as clerks by Federal appellate judges. The market promptly resumed the unraveling of appointment dates that had been temporarily slowed by these efforts. In the academic year 1999-2000 many judges hired clerks in the fall of the second year of law school, almost two years before employment would begin, and before hardly any information about candidates other than first year grades was available. Hiring dates moved still earlier in the Fall of 2000 and 2001. The present paper explores proposed reforms of the market, experimentally in the laboratory, and computationally using genetic algorithms. Our results suggest that some of the special features of the judge/law-clerk market—in particular the feeling among many students and judges that students must accept offers when they are made--present obstacles to the success of the proposed reforms, including the latest reform proposed by the judges, in March 2002, which is a one year moratorium on clerkship hiring. Unlike many markets in which the inability to make binding contracts contributes to market failure, in the law clerk market it is the ease with which binding contracts are forged that harms efficiency.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control.

Volume (Year): 30 (2006)
Issue (Month): 3 (March)
Pages: 457-486

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Handle: RePEc:eee:dyncon:v:30:y:2006:i:3:p:457-486
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  8. M. Utku Unver, 1999. "Backward Unraveling over Time: The Evolution of Strategic Behavior in the Entry-Level British Medical Labor Markets," Game Theory and Information 9907001, EconWPA, revised 16 Jul 1999.
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  18. Erev, Ido & Roth, Alvin E, 1998. "Predicting How People Play Games: Reinforcement Learning in Experimental Games with Unique, Mixed Strategy Equilibria," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 848-81, September.
  19. M. Utku Ünver, 2001. "On the Survival of Some Unstable Two-Sided Matching Mechanisms," Experimental 0111001, EconWPA, revised 01 Nov 2003.
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  21. Sonmez, Tayfun, 1999. "Can Pre-arranged Matches Be Avoided in Two-Sided Matching Markets?," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 148-156, May.
  22. Roth, Alvin E, 1991. "A Natural Experiment in the Organization of Entry-Level Labor Markets: Regional Markets for New Physicians and Surgeons in the United Kingdom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(3), pages 415-40, June.
  23. Duffy, John, 2001. "Learning to speculate: Experiments with artificial and real agents," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 25(3-4), pages 295-319, March.
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  26. Hao Li & Wing Suen, 2000. "Risk Sharing, Sorting, and Early Contracting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 1058-1087, October.
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  28. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  29. Roth, Alvin & Niederle, Muriel, 2003. "Unraveling Reduces the Scope of an Entry Level Labor Market: Gastroenterology with and without a Centralized Match," Scholarly Articles 2623686, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  30. Li, Hao & Rosen, Sherwin, 1998. "Unraveling in Matching Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 371-87, June.
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  32. Posner, Richard A. & Avery, Christopher & Jolls, Christine & Roth, Alvin, 2001. "The Market for Federal Judicial Law Clerks," Scholarly Articles 2623748, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  33. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Tayfun Sönmez, 2003. "School Choice: A Mechanism Design Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 729-747, June.
  34. Alvin E. Roth, 2002. "The Economist as Engineer: Game Theory, Experimentation, and Computation as Tools for Design Economics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1341-1378, July.
  35. John H. Miller, 1998. "Active Nonlinear Tests (ANTs) of Complex Simulation Models," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 44(6), pages 820-830, June.
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