The lawyer-client relationship is pivotal in providing access to courts. This paper presents results from a large-scale field experiment exploring how demographic information (encoded in potential clients’ names) affects how attorneys respond to initial inquiries in private injury cases. Based on prior literature, we hypothesized that race would be a significant factor, but we also explore race and gender interactions. We find that ostensibly Black or Hispanic senders receive fewer responses than ostensibly White senders, a result largely driven by a preferential treatment of White female senders. The racial disparities are larger than those previously documented in some contexts, such as public services, but smaller than in others, such as employment. We also find suggestive evidence that White attorneys are more likely than others to treat White senders preferentially, implying that the differences in response rates are not merely a reaction to jurisdiction-level factors affecting the expected payoff of lawsuits.

Jens Frankenreiter & Michael A. Livermore, Are Lawyers’ Case Selection Decisions Biased? A Field Experiment on Access to Justice, 52 Journal of Legal Studies 273–304 (2023).