October 9, 2008
ELS: More Garbage In, More Garbage Out
Empirical legal studies has become the fasting growing research trend in legal scholarly circles these last few years. Will it fall into the dustbin of scholarly fads that get law profs tenure but have no other consequences like critical legal studies, or will it actually produce results beyond the barracks of the legal academy like the law and economics movement?
Don't know but one thing is clear, much of the work is the product of amateur number-crunchers whose statistical skills don't extend much beyond Excel 101. "This enthusiasm [in quantitative empirical analysis] 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," writes Carolyn Shapiro (Chicago-Kent). Case in point, in Coding Complexity: Bringing Law to the Empirical Analysis of the Supreme Court [SSRN] (a critical analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court Database created by Harold Spaeth) Shapiro demonstrates that some studies unwittingly reflect the limitations of the tools and resources used rather than providing insight into the workings of courts. For more on garbage in, garbage out, see also LLB's earlier post, Tulane Law Review's Flawed Empirical Study.
Most universities has stats profs don't they? Harvard's Law School Library is on the right track, see Statistical Consulting Now Available at the Law Library. [JH]
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