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How Effective Are Limited Legal Assistance Programs? A Randomized Experiment in a Massachusetts Housing Court
Last registered on September 01, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
How Effective Are Limited Legal Assistance Programs? A Randomized Experiment in a Massachusetts Housing Court
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001690
Initial registration date
August 31, 2017
Last updated
September 01, 2017 10:14 AM EDT
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Harvard Law School
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Harvard University
PI Affiliation
Wellesley University
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2009-01-01
End date
2012-03-12
Secondary IDs
Abstract
We persuaded entities conducting a civil Gideon pilot program in summary eviction cases to allow us to randomize which potential clients would receive offers of traditional attorney-client relationships from oversubscribed legal aid staff attorneys and which would be referred to a lawyer for the day program. We examine outcomes related to whether matters not yet in litigation reached court, possession of the unit, monetary consequences of non-payment of rent cases, and court burden. We find no statistically significant evidence that the legal services provider's offer of full, as opposed to limited, representation had a large (or any) effect on any outcome of substantive import. We explore several possible interpretations of our results, and we caution against both over-interpretation and under-interpretation.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Greiner, James, Jonathan Hennessy and Cassandra Pattanayak. 2017. "How Effective Are Limited Legal Assistance Programs? A Randomized Experiment in a Massachusetts Housing Court." AEA RCT Registry. September 01. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1690-1.0.
Former Citation
Greiner, James et al. 2017. "How Effective Are Limited Legal Assistance Programs? A Randomized Experiment in a Massachusetts Housing Court." AEA RCT Registry. September 01. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1690/history/21102.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Offer of a traditional attorney-client relationship on a summary eviction matter versus a referral to a lawyer-for-the-day program.
Intervention Start Date
2009-01-01
Intervention End Date
2010-12-31
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
- Whether the case of an occupant who had received a "notice to quit" proceeded to litigation;
- Possession, measured as actual possession, judgement of possession, and whether a writ of execution had been issued
- Months of rent lost to landlords
- Court burden, measured as case length in days, number of times a judge interacted with or issued a contested ruling in a case, number of pre-judgements filed, and number of jury trials demanded
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The researchers conducted a randomized field experiment to examine the impact of an offer of traditional attorney-client representation versus an offer of "unbundled" or limited assistance representation to occupants facing summary eviction. Eligible occupants contacted the legal services provider at one of two stages of dispute: after having received a "notice to quit" or after a summary eviction lawsuit had been filed. Eligible occupants were required to attend either a one-to-two hour clinic about summary eviction or meet with a staff attorney. Next, occupants were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. The treatment group received an offer of traditional, full legal representation. The control group was informed that they were eligible for unbundled or limited "lawyer for the day" assistance in hallway settlements and mediation sessions, but not in filing motions or court appearances. Four primary sets of outcomes were evaluated: whether a case proceeded to litigation, possession of the unit, financial consequences, and burdens on the court. The primary method of analysis was an unweighted, simple permutation test.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Occupants were randomized in small batches by computer into treatment or control groups after completing required eviction clinic or attorney meeting.
Randomization Unit
individual cases
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
184 cases
Sample size: planned number of observations
184 cases
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
85 treatment cases, 99 control cases
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Harvard Committee for Research on Human Subjects
IRB Approval Date
2009-05-01
IRB Approval Number
F17526
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
December 31, 2010, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
December 31, 2010, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
184 cases
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
184 cases
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
85 treatment cases; 99 control cases
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
Abstract
We persuaded entities conducting a civil Gideon pilot program in summary eviction cases to allow us to randomize which potential clients would receive offers of traditional attorney-client relationships from oversubscribed legal aid staff attorneys and which would be referred to a lawyer for the day program. We examine outcomes related to whether matters not yet in litigation reached court, possession of the unit, monetary consequences of non-payment of rent cases, and court burden. We find no statistically significant evidence that the Provider's offer of full, as opposed to limited, representation had a large (or any) effect on any outcome of substantive import. We explore several possible interpretations of our results, and we caution against both over-interpretation and under-interpretation.
Citation
Greiner, D. James, Cassandra Wolos Pattanayak, and Jonathan Philip Hennessy. "How Effective Are Limited Legal Assistance Programs? A Randomized Experiment in a Massachusetts Housing Court." Working Paper, September 2012.
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS