Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Rethinking legal research: preparing law students for using empirical data."

By Professor Steven B. Dow (Mich. St. School Crim. Justice) and available at 2011 Mich. St. L. Rev. 523-540. From the introduction:

Despite its limitations, the North Carolina Racial Justice Act constitutes an emphatic rejection by a state legislature of the U.S. Supreme Court's myopic view on the relevance of empirical data in death penalty cases, a view articulated by the Court in McCleskey v. Kemp. Looking at it from a broader perspective, however, this statute and a similar statute enacted in Kentucky over a decade ago are less of a departure from, than a manifestation of, the broader trend of judicial reliance on scientific and social scientific data in formal dispute resolution. This trend, which began in the last third of the nineteenth century, has dramatically accelerated over the last four decades, despite the Supreme Court's decision in McCleskey, to the point where many courts now routinely utilize such evidence in certain types of cases. This broad trend of judicial reliance on empirical data in formal dispute resolution is very important, and I genuinely appreciate and applaud the efforts of Michigan State University College of Law in hosting this Symposium. At the same time, I could not help but notice more than a bit of irony in the fact that this Symposium on law and empirical data is hosted by a law school. American legal education is unique among all the university graduate-level programs in the natural and social sciences, as well as business and medicine, in not requiring even a basic level of competency in empirical research methods. As this Symposium demonstrates, such training is imperative today and is increasing in importance. Without adequate training, lawyers will be ineffective both in taking advantage of this trend in the practice of law and in advancing this trend on behalf of their profession and society. In this Article, I will discuss the current state of law school training in empirical research methods and then suggest how the effectiveness of that training can be enhanced without undermining the training in the more traditional professionally mandated competencies such as doctrinal analysis, client counseling, and advocacy.


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