Remember the old adage that those who chose to become lawyers are people who didn’t like blood so they didn’t want to go to med school, and didn’t like numbers so they didn’t want to go to business school? Forget about it.
The world is so complex now, and data is so prevalent, that numbers should be a lawyer’s best friend. We would be well-served to garner and analyze data to understand what’s going on in the legal profession and fashion solutions to better serve our clients and potential customers.
The Data Says: Court Filings are Down
A big data point we need to understand is why lawyers aren’t filing cases in court as often as they once did. The “Landscape of Civil Litigation in State Courts,” a 2015 study published by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) compiled data from over 925,000 cases disposed of in state courts in ten large counties that encompass major U.S. cities, including Chicago. The NCSC researchers identified 228,000 cases disposed of between July 2012 and June 2013 that resulted in a non-zero monetary judgment. The median judgment amount was only $2,441. Unsurprisingly, given that judgment amount, only 24 percent of cases had attorneys representing parties on both sides of the dispute. In other words, three quarters of the cases involved a self-represented litigant.
Here in Illinois, as reflected in the Illinois Supreme Court Annual Reports, civil filings have declined 32% over the last 20 years, from 634,000 to 430,000. (Since 2009, the number of civil filings has dropped almost 46%, from 791,000 to 430,000.) Yet, over the past two decades, the Illinois state population grew from 11.9 to 12.8 million people.
And self-represented litigants are rising in Illinois as elsewhere. According to the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, in 2015, 93 of Illinois’ 102 counties reported that more than 50% of civil cases involved a self-represented litigant on at least one side. In some case types, that number rose as high as 80%.
READ MORE Chicago Daily Law Bulletin Volume 164 No. 59 March 26, 2018