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Legal Fee Restrictions, Moral Hazard, and Attorney Rights

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  • Santore, Rudy
  • Viard, Alan D

Abstract

When attorney effort is unobservable and certain other simplifying assumptions (such as risk neutrality) hold, it is efficient for an attorney to purchase the rights to a client's legal claim. However, the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit this arrangement. We show that this ethical restriction, which is formally equivalent to requiring a minimum fixed fee of zero, can create economic rents for attorneys, even though they continue to compete along the contingent-fee dimension. The contingent fee is not bid down to the zero-profit level, because such a fee does not induce sufficient attorney effort. We thereby provide a political economy explanation for these restrictions. Copyright 2001 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Santore, Rudy & Viard, Alan D, 2001. "Legal Fee Restrictions, Moral Hazard, and Attorney Rights," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(2), pages 549-572, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:44:y:2001:i:2:p:549-72
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/322814
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Graham, Brad & Robles, Jack, 2016. "Attorney fees in repeated relationships," Working Paper Series 5074, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
    2. Kyung Hwan Baik & In-Gyu Kim, 2007. "Strategic Decisions On Lawyers' Compensation In Civil Disputes," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(4), pages 854-863, October.
    3. Winand Emons & Nuno Garoupa, 2004. "The Economics of US-style Contingent Fees and UK-style Conditional Fees," Diskussionsschriften dp0407, Universitaet Bern, Departement Volkswirtschaft.
    4. Michael McKee & Rudy Santore & Joel Shelton, 2007. "Contingent Fees, Moral Hazard, and Attorney Rents: A Laboratory Experiment," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 253-273, June.
    5. Bradley Graham & Jack Robles, 2014. "Moral hazard and legal services contracts," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 61(3), pages 219-230, September.
    6. Baik Kyung Hwan, 2008. "Attorneys' Compensation in Litigation with Bilateral Delegation," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 259-289, August.
    7. Kyung Hwan Baik & Jong Hwa Lee, 2013. "Endogenous Timing In Contests With Delegation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(4), pages 2044-2055, October.
    8. Daniel L. Chen, 2015. "Can markets stimulate rights? On the alienability of legal claims," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 46(1), pages 23-65, March.
    9. Andrew F. Daughtey & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2010. "Clients, Lawyers, Second Opinions, and Agency," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 1009, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    10. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2011. "Search, Bargaining, And Agency in the Market for Legal Services," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 1106, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    11. Zamir Eyal & Medina Barak & Segal Uzi, 2014. "Who Benefits from the Uniformity of Contingent Fee Rates?," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 9(3), pages 357-387, January.
    12. Eyal Zamir & Ilana Ritov, 2010. "Revisiting the Debate over Attorneys' Contingent Fees: A Behavioral Analysis," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(1), pages 245-288, January.
    13. Nuno Garoupa & Fernando Gómez, 2002. "Cashing by the hour: Why large law firms prefer hourly fees over contingent fees," Economics Working Papers 639, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

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