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Does Repeat Play Elicit Cooperation? Evidence from Federal Civil Litigation


  • Johnston, Jason Scott
  • Waldfogel, Joel


While some litigants frequently file cases, very few opposing pairs of litigants appear together frequently. Thus, there is little opportunity for litigants to develop trust or reputation. Lawyers, on the other hand, face each other frequently and participate in a community of lawyers that shares information. Lawyers may therefore foster efficient dispute resolution by turning one-shot client interaction into a repeated game. This suggests the following empirical question: are disputes resolved more quickly by agents (lawyers) who interact frequently, either as individuals or through their firms? We have assembled a data set on roughly 2,000 federal civil cases filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 1994, supplementing the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research data with attorney, and firm, identity. After accounting for individual attorney speed, we find that cases that involve attorney pairs who interact repeatedly in our data are resolved more quickly and are more likely to settle. Copyright 2002 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Johnston, Jason Scott & Waldfogel, Joel, 2002. "Does Repeat Play Elicit Cooperation? Evidence from Federal Civil Litigation," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(1), pages 39-60, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:31:y:2002:i:1:p:39-60

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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel P. Kessler & Daniel L. Rubinfeld, 2004. "Empirical Study of the Civil Justice System," NBER Working Papers 10825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Peter Grajzl & Valentina Dimitrova-Grajzl & Katarina Zajc, 2016. "Inside post-socialist courts: the determinants of adjudicatory outcomes in Slovenian commercial disputes," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 85-115, February.
    3. Yannis Bakos & Chrysanthos Dellarocas, 2011. "Cooperation Without Enforcement? A Comparative Analysis of Litigation and Online Reputation as Quality Assurance Mechanisms," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(11), pages 1944-1962, November.
    4. Brinig Margaret F., 2005. ""Unhappy Contracts": The Case of Divorce Settlements," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 1(2), pages 241-275, September.
    5. Chris Kuo, 2013. "Billing Abuses by the Experts: A Game-Theoretic Analysis of Legal Services," Journal of Economics and Management, College of Business, Feng Chia University, Taiwan, vol. 9(1), pages 13-30, January.
    6. Eric Helland & Jonathan Klick & Alexander Tabarrok, 2005. "Data Watch: Tort-uring the Data," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 207-220, Spring.
    7. repec:eee:irlaec:v:51:y:2017:i:c:p:1-11 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:eee:irlaec:v:52:y:2017:i:c:p:97-110 is not listed on IDEAS

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