Why Employment Attorneys Should Care About Statistics

Why should employment attorneys care about statistics? In many cases, a lack of direct evidence or a "smoking gun" may mean that statistical analysis is the only evidence available. Attorneys with an understanding of these statistical analyses and the inferences drawn from these analyses are better positioned to advise their clients on the merits of the matter.

As noted by Bessey, Gilmartin and Stancavage in their paper "A Review of Statistical Books For Use In Employment Discrimination Lawsuits", this need is not satisfied by hiring an expert specializing in the use of statistics in employment discrimination matters. They state "[w]e are not advocating that these experts be replaced by technically sophisticated attorneys. Rather, we are arguing that attorneys will become more effective collaborators if they possess some knowledge of quantitative methods."

Bessey, Gilmartin and Stancavage make an excellent argument for why attorneys should have an understanding of quantitative methods:

"[T]rial attorneys who are knowledgeable about statistical methods are more effective during the pretrial preparation phase of a case, because they can take a more proactive stance when working with labor economists, industrial psychologists, and other experts to plan data collection, data analysis, and rebuttal activities. They understand what proof is needed for their case-in-chief and know that the analyses will be appropriate and provide them with the information they need. They can speculate about what analyses might be presented by the opposing side (and have their own expert carry out parallel analyses prior to rebuttal), and they can anticipate (and therefore prepare for) possible attacks on the analyses that they present. All of these activities lead to a more coherent and effective presentation at trial."
As an economic and statistical consultant specializing in employment issues, I couldn't agree more. While employment attorneys need not be quantitative experts in their own right, a basic familiarity with common statistical concepts and techniques as applied to law will allow them to better serve their clients and to participate in meaningful discussions with their experts.
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