The Journal of Law – “Like Water for Law Reviews”

Another Volume #1, Issue #1, just came across my desk:  The Journal of Law.

The Journal of Law looks like a conventional law review, but it is really a bundle of small, unconventional law journals, all published together in one volume.  This approach saves money over separate publications.  It also frees editors of the individual journals to spend more time finding and refining good material . . .  The idea is that the Journal of Law will be an incubator of sorts, providing for legal intellectuals something akin to what business schools’ incubators offer commercial entrepreneurs: friendly, small-scale, in-kind support for promising, unconventional ideas for which (a) there might be a market, but (b) there is not yet backing among established, deep-pocketed powers-that-be.

This first issue contains three journals:

Pub. L. Misc. is a project of James C. Ho of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Trevor W. Morrison of the Columbia University School of Law.  Their plan is to provide a forum for the publication of a relatively neglected body of legal material: constitutional documents, recent and ancient, that originate outside of Article III of the U.S. Constitution.

Law & Commentary is an experiment in non-blind peer review in which signed reviews (by senior, influential scholars) are published side-by-side with the reviewed work.  The first issue features an article by Stuart Chinn of the University of Oregon School of Law, with commentary by Bruce Ackerman of the Yale Law School and Sanford Levinson of the University of Texas School of Law.

The Congressional Record, FantasyLaw Edition, is a student-edited journal . . . focusing on empirical analysis of the activities of federal legislators.

More about the journal, including its full text and an explanation of why it is “like water for law reviews” here:

It’s in print too and will be “as long as the most prestigious law reviews appear in print, . . . ”  As for when it will “abandon ink and paper” it cites, among other things, the Durham Statement.

The (Nearly) Forgotten Early Empirical Legal Research

“The (Nearly) Forgotten Early Empirical Legal Research”

Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-26

HERBERT M. KRITZER, University of Minnesota Law School

The modern empirical legal studies movement has well-known antecedents in the law and society and law and economics traditions of the latter half of the 20th century. Less well known is the body of empirical research on legal phenomena from the period prior to World War II. This paper considers that earlier work with discussions of what accounts for the burst of such research in the 1920s and 30s, methodological and funding issues confronting that research, why the research seemed to come to an end in the latter part of the 1930s (to begin to reappear in the 1950s), and some of the continuities in findings between that research and more recent empirical research on law.


Source:  LSN Litigation & Procedure Vol. 10 No. 53,  07/30/2009

Going Behind the Scenes of Empirical Legal Research

A new book crossed my desk today, Conducting Law and Society Research: Reflections on Methods and Practices, and here’s its description from the publisher’s website (Cambridge University Press):

Conducting Law and Society Research: Reflections on Methods and Practices

Series: Cambridge Studies in Law and Society

Simon Halliday
University of Strathclyde

Patrick Schmidt
MacAlester College, Minnesota

Through interviews with many of the most noteworthy authors in law and society, Conducting Law and Society Research takes students and scholars behind the scenes of empirical scholarship, showing the messy reality of research methods. The challenges and the uncertainties, so often missing from research methods textbooks, are revealed in candid detail. These accessible and revealing conversations about the lived reality of classic projects will be a source of encouragement and inspiration to those embarking on empirical research, ranging across the full array of disciplines that contribute to law and society. For all of the ambiguities and challenges to the social “scientific” study of law, the reflections found in this book — collectively capturing a portrait of the field through the window of the research efforts — individually remind readers that “good research” displays not an absence of problems, but the care taken in negotiating them.

A very candid look at research methods from the leading scholars in the field – Approachable conversations appropriate for all levels, from students to scholars – Topics range very broadly across the leading approaches and speciality subjects in law and society

1. Beyond methods: law & society in action; 2. Stewart Macaulay and Non-Contractual Relations and Business (1963); 3. Robert Kagan and Regulatory Justice (1978); 4. Malcolm Feeley and The Process Is the Punishment (1979); 5. Lawrence Friedman and The Roots of Justice (1981); 6. John Heinz and Edward Laumann and Chicago Lawyers (1982); 7. Alan Paterson and The Law Lords (1982); 8. David Engel and The Oven Bird’s Song (1984); 9. Keith Hawkins and Environment and Enforcement (1984); 10. Carol Greenhouse and Praying for Justice (1986); 11. John Conley and William O’Barr and Rules versus Relationships (1990); 12. Sally Engle Merry and Getting Justice and Getting Even (1990); 13. Tom Tyler and Why People Obey the Law (1990); 14. Doreen McBarnet and Whiter than White Collar Crime (1991); 15. Gerald Rosenberg and The Hollow Hope (1991); 16. Michael McCann and Rights at Work (1994); 17. Austin Sarat & William Felstiner and Divorce Lawyers and Their Clients (1995); 18. Yves Dezalay and Bryant Garth and Dealing in Virtue (1996); 19. Patricia Ewick and Susan Silbey and The Common Place of Law (1998); 20. Hazel Genn and Paths to Justice (1999); 21. John Braithwaite and Peter Drahos and Global Business Regulation (2000); 22. John Hagan and Justice in the Balkans (2003); 23. Conclusion: “Research is a Messy Business” — An Archeology of the Craft of Socio-Legal Research – Herbert Kritzer.


And the book makes a good case for why PACER data should be free or at least less expensive for law schools:

From chapter 23, Conclusion: “Research is a Messy Business” — An Archeology of the Craft of Socio-Legal Research:


. . . Imagine that you want to study something about trials in federal court.  You could turn to the statistical reports published by the Administrative Office (AO) of the U.S. Courts and extract information from the Reports’ well-digested tables.  Or, you could obtain from the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) the case-level data reported to the AO and deposited with the ICPSR (these data form the basis for the published tables); you could then process these data to create whatever summaries you need.  Or, if you have adequate resources, you could access raw case files through the federal court’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system; you would then extract and code the information you want from raw case file data. . . .

Computer Programming and the Law: A New Research Agenda

“Computer Programming and the Law: A New Research Agenda”

Villanova Law Review, Forthcoming
U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-08

PAUL OHM, University of Colorado Law School

This essay proposes a new interdisciplinary research agenda called Computer Programming and the Law. By harnessing the power of computer programming, legal scholars can develop better tools, data, and insights for advancing their research interests. This essay presents the case for this new research agenda, highlights some examples of those who have begun to blaze the trail, and includes code samples to demonstrate the power and potential of developing software for legal scholarship. The code samples in this essay can be run like a piece of software – thanks to a technique known as literate programming – making this the world’s first law review article that is also a working computer program.

Source: LSN Information Privacy Law Vol. 2 No. 14,  04/14/2009



                        October 24 – 26, 2008

          Presented by Northwestern University School of Law
                      and Washington University

     The Advanced Course is for law school faculty interested in
     furthering their training in empirical research. The
     workshop is designed for those who have some experience
     with empirical legal research and an understanding of
     elementary statistics (at the level taught in the
     introductory workshop). Topics to be covered will include
     multiple regression, regression models for limited
     dependent variables, presenting results from non-linear
     models, data visualization and graphics, and matching
     methods for casual inference.


     Friday, October 24

     – Introduction to Inference
     – Linear Regression Review
     – Regression Diagnostics
     – In-Class Exercise on Linear Regression

     Saturday, October 25

     – Effectively Presenting Regression Results
     – Presenting Substantive Effects
     – Logit, Probit, and Maximum Likelihood
     – Simulation-based Methods for Computing Substantive
     – In-Class Exercise on Logit and Probit
     – A Tour of Cross-Sectional Models
     – Matching Methods for Causal Inference

     Sunday, October 26

     – More on Matching Methods for Causal Inference
     – Visualization
     – Questions and Wrap-Up


Source:  LSN Professional Announcements and Job Openings, 08/13/2008

More on ELS: Judicial Transparency in an Age of Prediction

Judicial Transparency in an Age of Prediction

U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 216

ADAM SAMAHA, University of Chicago – Law School

The Empirical Legal Studies (ELS) movement is making strides toward understanding judicial behavior, and ELS models could become the foundation for more accurate prediction of judicial decisions. This essay raises two questions associated with this development. First, what would an age of predictable judicial behavior look like? Second, would satisfying the informational needs of ELS prediction models also exhaust the demands for “judicial transparency”? My conclusions are that a state of predictable judicial behavior, if somehow stable, would leave almost no litigation to observe; and that a prediction-oriented information policy would nearly meet the demands of today’s transparency advocates. One shortfall involves the intrinsic/consumption value of adjudication for intellectuals and others. A prediction-oriented policy would not meet that demand and could even thwart its satisfaction which presents an unappreciated normative choice for information policy.


Source: LSN: University of Chicago Law School, Public Law & Legal Theory, Vol. 10 No. 6,  06/10/2008

Coding Complexity: Bringing Law to the Empirical Analysis of the Supreme Court

Coding Complexity: Bringing Law to the Empirical Analysis of the Supreme Court

2nd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper
Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 60, 2009

CAROLYN SHAPIRO, Illinois Institute of Technology – Chicago-Kent College of Law

In recent years, the legal academy has experienced a surge of interest in quantitative empirical analysis. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm has not always been accompanied by careful analysis of what the tools and resources of quantitative analysis can tell us about law and legal doctrine. As this Article demonstrates, the findings of some studies therefore unwittingly reflect the limitations of those tools and resources rather than providing insight into the workings of courts.

Specifically, this Article provides a long-overdue critical analysis of the most influential source of data about the Supreme Court, the Original Supreme Court Database, created by political scientist Harold J. Spaeth. The Database, which codes every opinion issued by the Supreme Court since 1953, contains coding for legal provisions considered by the court and for what Spaeth calls issue and issue area. Although numerous scholars – within both political science and law – rely on them, these codes do not report reliable information about the role that law and legal doctrine plays in the Supreme Court’s cases. The Database does not reliably report the legal provisions or doctrines relied upon or at issue; it does not attempt to report legal issues at all, instead describing the “public policy context” of the case; and by design, it generally reports only one issue per case. These limitations have important, but poorly understood, implications for the many, many scholars who rely on the Database, and the Article describes a number of specific studies whose results are unreliable because of the way they use the Database.

This critique of the Database and the ways scholars use it can help scholars to be smarter and more accurate in their use of the Database. At the same time, the Article explores ways to incorporate law and legal doctrine into empirical legal scholarship. To further both goals, the Article presents the results of my Recoding Project of a random sample of recent Supreme Court cases. The findings of the Recoding Project confirm that significant information about law and doctrine is omitted from the databases. Furthermore, the findings suggest that the databases systematically underreport law and doctrine related to courts in particular and to the structure and operations of government in general – issues that may be very salient to the justices in at least some cases. By demonstrating what information is missing or misstated in the Database and by exploring ways to develop more comprehensive and law-focused coding protocols, this Article helps positive scholars – whether political scientists or legal academics – to consider how to take account of law. The Article concludes by discussing implications for future research.

Source:  LSN Law & Positive Political Theory Vol. 4 No. 9,  06/10/2008