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Are lawyers worth the cost? Legal counsel in environmental criminal court cases

Dietrich Earnhart and Sandra Rousseau

International Review of Law and Economics, 2019, vol. 60, issue C

Abstract: Lawyers arguably play a critical role in court proceedings. However, lawyers are expensive to hire. Defendants prosecuted by courts surely hope that legal representation by lawyer is worth the expense. This study empirically explores this trade-off by estimating the effect of legal representation on various court decisions surrounding the prosecution of individuals in environmental criminal cases in Flanders (Belgium) between 2003 and 2006. Our results apparently reveal that the presence of a lawyer meaningfully lowers the likelihoods of courts convicting a defendant and imposing monetary sanctions and prison sentences on defendants and reduces the magnitudes of monetary sanctions and prison terms. However, these benefits may not outweigh the costs of hiring a lawyer. Consequently, our results do not unequivocally demonstrate the prudence of securing legal presentation in court. Instead, conclusions depend on the benefits associated with reduced prison terms and the expected number of hours billed by the hired lawyer.

Keywords: Lawyer; Legal representation; Environmental crime; Sanctions; Incarceration (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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DOI: 10.1016/j.irle.2019.105857

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