Does repeat play elicit cooperation? Evidence from federal civil litigation

Jason Scott Johnston, Joel Waldfogel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


While some litigants frequently file cases, very few opposing pairs of litigants appear together frequently. Thus, there is little opportunity for litigants to develop trust or reputation. Lawyers, on the other hand, face each other frequently and participate in a community of lawyers that shares information. Lawyers may therefore foster efficient dispute resolution by turning one-shot client interaction into a repeated game. This suggests the following empirical question: are disputes resolved more quickly by agents (lawyers) who interact frequently, either as individuals or through their firms? We have assembled a data set on roughly 2,000 federal civil cases filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 1994, supplementing the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research data with attorney, and firm, identity. After accounting for individual attorney speed, we find that cases that involve attorney pairs who interact repeatedly in our data are resolved more quickly and are more likely to settle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-60
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Legal Studies
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002


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