14 September 2006

One of the biggest jokes in the law is the word "reasonable." It shows up all the time, and no one has any idea what the word means. My accounting professor told me that it's just a method for lawyers to make money by giving them something to interpret. He says accountants do the same thing, and threw out other weasel words like "material" and "substantial."

But if you had to quantify a "reasonable chance," what number would you put on it? Today, from two different sources, I learned the answer. First, I learned in my Income Tax class that attorneys have an ethical obligation to only take legal positions that have a reasonable chance of succeeding in court. In the Income Tax context, the IRS has decided that a reasonable chance means 33%.

Next, I was reading the blog of a supreme court litigator. He reads all of the paid certiorari petitions and then decides which have a "reasonable chance" of being granted. Guess what percentage of his picks are actually granted? That's right, 33%.

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