Andrea Combe


According to the traditional legal view, litigation outcomes are the result of applying the law to the facts of the case. In contrast, research has demonstrated that litigation is a complex human endeavour, where extra-legal factors are also of significant importance.  Prior research in this domain has linked litigation outcomes to the parties’ resources, counsel’s ability and experience, litigation effort and court composition. However, solicitors have a central role in litigation. In the preparatory stages solicitors are the only party who communicate with all the other players in the litigation matrix – clients, witnesses, counsel, court, opponents. Through their decision making solicitors can shape the way in which the litigation progresses and therefore influence outcomes.

In this doctoral study I investigate the cognitive models of individual solicitors. These include solicitors’ different objectives in litigation and their beliefs about cause-and-effect relationships which underpin the decisions they make to achieve outcomes.

The aims of the study are:-

  1. To identify different cognitive models in individual solicitors,
  2. To investigate the antecedents to these cognitive models, and their consequences in terms of litigation outcomes; and
  3. To develop a conceptual model of solicitors’ decision making in litigation.

The participants in the study are practicing employment solicitors within the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

The theory underpinning the study is schema theory.

The study is bound in critical realism hence it embarks on a mixed method research design, using vignettes, causal mapping, Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT), sorting/ranking tasks and in-depth interviews.