Would-be clients with White-sounding Names got 50% More Lawyer Responses in California. Yale University Study says Lawyers were Less Likely to Respond to Emails from People Perceived to be Black

From [HERE] Lawyers in markets with less competition might be more likely to racially discriminate against clients seeking legal representation, a Yale researcher has concluded.

Yale University lecturer and postdoctoral associate Brian Libgober drew that conclusion from a series of studies in which he sent emails requesting representation to lawyers in private practice.

Lawyers in California were less likely to respond to emails from apparently black clients, while lawyers in Florida did not differ much in their response.

In two combined studies of California lawyers, Libgober found that clients with white-sounding names were receiving 50% more replies than clients with black-sounding names. There was no statistically significant difference in response rates in Florida.

In an article summarizing his findings written for the Lewis and Clark Law Review, Libgober suggests that the reason could involve competition for work. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, there are about 20% more lawyers per capita in Florida than in California. In addition, Florida lawyers earn less on average.

Those statistics suggest that competition among lawyers for clients is greater in Florida than in California, he says. “A hungry lawyer will serve just about anybody,” Libgober told the ABA Journal. “A lawyer flush with work may play favorites in selecting clients on matters on a lot of dimensions. For some, that may include race and gender.”

In the California study, Libgober used the names “Darnell Jackson” and “Latoya Jackson” to signal that a potential client was black, and he used the names “Brad McCarthy” and “Laurie McCarthy” to suggest that a potential client was white. The emails identified the sender as a medical sales representative and asked for representation in a DUI case.

Libgober sent the emails to two batches of 96 criminal defense lawyers who were certified in criminal law. When he combined findings from the two study batches, he found that clients with white-sounding names were receiving 50% more replies.

In a follow-up study that he conducted in Florida, emails were sent to 899 small-firm lawyers seeking representation in either a criminal case involving a misdemeanor driving offense, a divorce, or a personal-injury matter. The lawyers were identified as black or white, and male or female.

The senders of the email were identified as “Latasha Francois,” “Tasha Dorsey,” “Terrance Williams,” “Maurice Henry” (all deemed to be black-sounding names, at varying levels), “Anthony Holley,” “Sam Nash,” “Nicole Horton” and “Tabitha Morgan” (the white-sounding names, in varying degrees). [more]