In What Difference Representation: Offers, Actual Use, and the Need for Randomization Jim Greiner and Cassandra Wolos Pattanayak present the results from a randomized controlled study that was designed to assess the efficacy of an offer of representation from the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB)−a student-run provider of legal services that is part of the clinical education program at Harvard. There is a great deal to like about this article: it is methodologically rigorous, the data analysis is careful and transparent, its main points are clearly argued and explained, and both the specific results dealing with the efficacy of an offer of HLAB representation in unemployment benefits cases and the broader argument about the need for randomized controlled trials to better understand the effects of representation in civil proceedings are provocative and relevant. The authors are clear about what they are doing and what they are not doing and they offer good advice about how one might design additional studies to assess interesting questions that are outside the scope of their own study.
It would be easy to spend more time and space than this blog post permits to discuss everything that I like about this article. I am not going to do that.
Instead, I’d like to use this post to briefly mention some issues that arise when one attempts to seriously evaluate the efficacy of legal representation−particularly free legal assistance such as that offered by law school clinical education programs. Read More