Choice theory for law departments

What psychologists know about people’s behavior when they must make choices has applications for law departments.  A piece in the NY Times explained these findings about choice behavior (March 7, 2005 at page WK12).

For example, when people face too many choices, such as juggling more than 18 major issues in an agreement being negotiated or picking matter types from a list of 32, they balk.  They stumble with cognitive overload. 

Likewise, when people choose from among a wide selection, they express more regret and uncertainty about their decision.  If a department has 10 good candidates to hire for an open position, they may look ruefully look back on their choice as compared to having only three candidates. 

At the other extreme, when people have no choice, such as clients must file a particular form in ten days or only one version of a case budget exists, they delay, resist, and become fractious.  When they face a choice that requires opting out of some default, such as having a standard document for confidentiality agreements available and they must actively choose not to use it, they overwhelmingly go with the default choice.  This finding suggests that a law department needs to take special care when constructing employee or client satisfaction questions.  Default choices will skew the answers.

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