Understanding the Costs of Litigation: The Case of the Hourly‐Fee Lawyer

Herbert M. Kritzer, Austin Sarat, David M. Trubek, Kristin Bumiller, Elizabeth McNichol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


What does it mean to talk about the “cost of civil justice”? What can be done to bring down that cost? This article addresses these two important questions. Drawing on data collected by the Civil Litigation Research Project, the authors first examine the components of cost and then present an extensive analysis of what is by far the dominant element of the cost equation‐legal services. The analysis of the cost of legal services examines the amount of time lawyers devote to cases and the rates they charge for their time. The major factors influencing time include adversariness, stakes, litigant goals, and court (federal versus state); hourly rates appear to be determined primarily by the legal services market. The article closes with a discussion of the implications of the results of the analysis for reforms of the civil justice system that might seek to lower the cost of justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-581
Number of pages23
JournalLaw & Social Inquiry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1984


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