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A good lawyer can turn things around for his or her clients even in trying circumstances and a new research has found that it is experience, not a deep knowledge of law, that helps lawyers make the difference in a court of law.
Be it a case of bankruptcy or child custody, lawyers' deep knowledge of the law explains little of their impact in these kinds of cases, said study author Rebecca Sandefur, professor of sociology and of law at the University of Illinois in the US.
Most of the impact comes instead from other kinds of expertise: assisting with relatively simple procedures, as well as navigating the relationships involved in getting things done.
"But for this set of problems, what lawyers seem to do that makes a difference is understand how to move paper around, and show up at what office at what time, and phrase things in the magic words that law understands," Sandefur pointed out.
The study took into account 17 previous studies conducted over more than four decades, representing about 18,000 cases.
The findings appeared online in the journal American Sociological Review.