Lawyer and Nonlawyer Susceptibility to Framing Effects in Out-of-Court Civil Litigation Settlement

Ian Belton, Mary Thomson, Mandeep Dhami

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Settling a legal dispute out of court is typically a good result for both parties. However, many disputes do not settle: the presence of cognitive biases, such as those observed through framing manipulations, is thought to be one of the many reasons for settlement failure. The present study used quantitative and qualitative data to compare the impact of a gain- or loss-framed hypothetical civil litigation scenario on settlement decisions made by lawyers and other nonlawyer professionals. A significant effect of framing was found for both groups. As predicted, both nonlawyers and lawyers were much more likely to settle their claim in the gain scenario than in the loss scenario. This finding was supported by the qualitative data: risk-averse comments were more frequent in the gain frame whereas risk-seeking statements were more common in the loss frame. There was also evidence that lawyers may be less affected by framing than nonlawyers, although a smaller difference was observed than in previous studies. In addition, lawyers were more likely than nonlawyers to consider the expected financial value of the litigation in making their decision. We discuss the implications of these results and suggest avenues for future research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)578-600
    JournalJournal of Empirical Legal Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014


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