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18 January 2007


Geoff McGovern

I'm with Michelle. For the most part, the student audience we are trying to reach will be new to quantitative methods since the standard law curriculum has never embraced a social scientific approach to legal analysis. If there were only to be one course, we'd have to go with an introductory class seeking to accomplish what Michelle has enumerated. Otherwise, the focus would be prohibitively narrow.

But I really like her second suggestion; cross registration with pre-existing policy departments allows for a great degree of specialization without having to sink costs into another law class. Health policy research and biostatistics are different from the law and economics of accidents. It would be difficult for a student interested in one or the other to get a very high level of training if an advanced quantitative law school class focused only on methods and not on substance.

Michelle Mello

I would suggest that in an introductory ELS course, the goals should be to (1) get students to understand the value of empirical study of the law, and the landscape of possible methods of investigation; and (2) make them informed consumers of ELS by training them in basic statistical concepts and principles of scientific rigor. Teaching them to actually do ELS is probably too ambitious. But interested students could be steered to methods courses in other schools at the university that train graduate students in policy analysis. Health policy departments in schools of public health and medicine, public policy schools, and economics departments are all good places to look. All of these places would offer good training in econometric methods, statistical programming, and perhaps also qualitative research methods.

Gary Rosin

I know of two books that take a "Statistics for Lawyers" approach:

(1) Finkelstein & Levin, Statistics for Lawyers (2nd ed, Springer 2001) (600 pp. ) This is an ambitious book that tries to take students from zero to "more complex regressions" (e.g., time series, logit, probit and poisson). The approach is generally litigation-oriented.

(2) Cope, Fundamentals of Statistical Analysis (Foundation Press 2005) (110 pp.). This book is much more modest in its approach--single variable descreptive and inferential statistics, bivariate statistics and linear regression (including multivariate.) Its "goal is prepare readeres to thoughtfully engage with the sorts of statistically based arguments that are common in real world settings, such as law courts, legislatures, govenrment agencies and the press" (preface, p. iv).


Bob Rasmussen

Great question. Different law schools can answer the question differently. For example, at Vanderbilt we are creating a PhD in Law and Economics. The program is housed in the law school, and is being led by Kip Viscusi and Joni Hersch. The stated goal is to equip the students to create original empirical research. Looking at the curriculum that Joni and Kip have put together, I would be skeptical of any single course that had as its ambition teaching law students how to do empirical research.

William Henderson

Yair, this is a very provocative post. I cannot resist taking the bate.

This is not to disparage your nature of this inquiry, but I think the most fundamental question is this: What is the purpose of ELS scholarship? To what extent has (or can) empirical evidence be used to shape judicial outcomes or develop prescriptive social policies. If the ELS movement can gain this real world traction--i.e., a steady track record beyond articles that are good for one's career and toward larger (or at least different) social payoffs that traditional doctrinal or theoretical scholarship--then the curricular changes may evolve in a fairly organic way.

That said, I think a good place to teach applied ELS is in a 1L Legal Professions class in which qualitative and quantitative methods are brought to bear on lawyers and the legal service industry. I have experimented with this approach, and the salience of the subject matter to the students' future careers breaks down some of the traditional resistance to numbers.

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