Lawyers over-rate their judgment and should use metrics more

“Whether diagnosing patients or evaluating job candidates, human beings [RWM: no exceptions for lawyers] vastly overestimate their ability to make judgments, research shows.” The NY Times pronounced this Aug. 28, 2005 (at pg. WK4) in a piece about statistics and baseball, and continued, “Numbers and analysis almost always make people better.”

As a Mets and statistics fan, I like the point made, and note that it holds equally for managers of law departments. If picking students to admit to a school and predicting the survival of cancer patients can be done better by a computer model given the same information as an expert, as cited by Richard Thaler – a University of Chicago economist who studies decision-making – then in-house decisions to patent, to sue, to settle, to disclose, to license, to retain will also benefit from benchmark numbers and analysis, even with software tools.

Applying legal judgment and expertise has much art to it, but art achieves its purposes best if the artist combines facts and their analysis, the domain of numbers and statistics.

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