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September 22, 2006

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Rick Sander

A nice discussion. It's worth adding that, in my experience, employers are increasingly eager to find law graduates who have empirical/data skills. They are recognizing the added value of having the expertise "in-house" rather than relying on outside experts.
The syllabus for my Quantitative Methods course is posted at the bottom of my home page, here:
http://www.law.ucla.edu/sander/
I'm all for sharing materials, problem sets, etc.

Tracy Lightcap

Ok, it's hard to make comments when you're also looking at The Spy Who Came In From The Cold - ah, things were so much easier then! - but a comment or two might be in order. First, I'd say you need to ask Ed Tufte to send you his syllabi for his courses on the same subject at Yale. His work is, as usual, virtually flawless. So why do I refer to his work?

Ok, the question is: do we want to leave the use of data analysis in law at its present prehistoric state or do we want to catch the judges and attorneys up to present practices? If the later, we need to get the law students away from depending on significance tests and their false certainty and concentrate them instead on patterns in the data. That is what counts; nothing else , to be frank, matters in any useful data analysis. What it comes down to is that we need to get the judges to begin thinking for themselves instead of looking to the number crunchers first. Data analysis is actually pretty easy: you look for patterns and you make conclusions. I'd put that number one with a bullet and concentrate the course around that. Think how liberated the judges would feel if they found that their intuitions about the data might actually be right! Especially when they actually ARE right! Let's give them a chance to catch up to the 21st century! They would probably enjoy learningh that they are competent!

Jim Greiner

I hope, as the entry above suggests, that there is a trend, and that it continues. There are several models one might use to get law students interested in empirical methods. One is to teach them empirical tools and ask them to conduct their own research. An alternative is to ask them to do what practitioners do, i.e., interact with quantitatively-trained expert witnesses. I had some luck with the latter approach this past semester in a course I co-taught; the experts were graduate students in statistics and government also taking the class for credit. We did two rounds of simulated pre-trial litigation, including transcribed depositions. In case folks are interested, more information is available at http://my.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?course=fas-stat245.

Thanks for the heads up on these courses!

Jim

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