Saturday, January 22, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Programs of Interest to Empirical Legal Researchers at the AALS Annual Meeting

Several programs at American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting were of interest to those involved in empirical research. Of particular note were the following programs:

1) Translating Research into Action: A Crucial Role for the Legal Academy

Co-Moderators: Katharine T. Bartlett, Duke University School of Law john a. powell, The Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law
Speakers: William T. Bielby, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Chicago IL Anthony G. Greenwald, Ph.D., University of Washington Department of Psychology Seattle WA
Alexandra Kalev, Professor, Sociology Department, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ Jerry Kang, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law Gregory Mitchell, University of Virginia School of Law Laura Beth Nielsen, Northwestern University School of Law Susan P. Sturm, Columbia University School of Law

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this program. I hope that a podcast of this program will be available in the near future.

2) What Should the Future of PACER-based Research Capabilities Include and How Should Law Schools Be Training Law Students With Respect to PACER

Description: The Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has initiated a project to develop the Next Generation Case Management/Electronic Case Filing System (CM/ECF), which researchers and others access through PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) ... The session solicits information from researchers and law librarians relating to (1) their experience and satisfaction with PACER, (2) their thoughts on access to and costs of PACER, (3) proposed functional improvements, (4) designing a new system that incorporates current technologies, (5) comments and suggestions regarding new and proposed requirements, and (6) training law students.

Because this was a feedback session rather than a formal presentation, I do not believe it was recorded for podcast. A recap of some of the conversation is below:

Judge J. Rich Leonard indicated positive consideration of a suggestion to have a flat fee based arrangement of access and use of PACER. He indicated that such an arrangement has already been reached with the Department of Justice.

Judge Leonard also noted there currently exists a waiver of fees for distinct academic research projects. However, he also indicated an understanding that because waiver is a local court decision, he was aware of instances where researcher had been granted waivers in some jurisdictions and not in others.

Judge Leonard also noted the desire of all users of the system for a functional system improvements.

3) The Challenges of Empirical Work in Law

Moderator: Michael B. Dorff, Southwestern Law School
Speakers: Katherine Y. Barnes, The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law Daniel Chen, Duke University School of Law D. James Greiner, Harvard Law School Daniel E. Ho, Stanford Law School Andrew D. Martin, Washington University School of Law

Description: Empirical work conducted by those trained in it is a relatively new phenomenon for law schools, especially outside of the elite schools. What are the challenges we face in supporting such work? Is it possible to train existing law professors interested in starting to do such work short of enrolling them in masters or Ph.D. programs? Can student-edited law reviews adequately evaluate (to the extent they adequately evaluate anything) empirical work? How does empirical work in legal scholarship differ from empirical work being pursued in other (more traditionally empirically-oriented) academic disciplines (e.g., sociology, psychology, economics, etc.)? What (if anything) can legal academics bring to the project of empirical scholarship that is not contributed by academics working within these other disciplines? What counts as good empirical scholarship in the legal academy? Do we and should we apply the same standards in evaluating the quality of empirical work as other disciplines do? What is the relationship between empirical scholarship in law and more traditional methods of legal scholarship? How has the empirical turn in legal scholarship impacted our understanding of what counts as high-quality legal scholarship?

This was a great program. The moderator mentioned that it was being recorded for podcast.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Caucus Iniative

Thanks to the work of Iantha Haight, at the 2010 AALL Annual Meeting, those interested in empirical legal research met informally to discuss the topic. There are currently 40 law librarians who either attended the meeting or have expressed an interest in forming a group to focus on empirical research. Because librarians at all types of organizations are interested in empirical research, it was determined that, rather than trying to organize as an interest group within a special interest section, perhaps a caucus would be the best initial organization for the group.

We are currently in the process of registering as a caucus with AALL. The purpose of the group is stated as follows:

The Empirical Research Caucus is organized to:

1) Encourage law librarians to expand their knowledge of trends in empirical research, empirical research methods, and multidisciplinary resources related to legal topics and research.

2) Facilitate librarian instructional efforts to increase information literacy in regards to empirical research.

3) Encourage law librarians to engage in research and publication regarding empirical evaluation of patron services, patron literacy, and other related topic such as law and society.

4) Maintain a listing of publications by librarians on conducting empirical research or reporting empirical research.

5) Partner with AALL Special Interest Sections, including ALL-SIS, PLL-SIS, and CS-SIS, to support and publicize programming and professional development opportunities addressing empirical research and the organization and administration of empirical research support programs.

6) Provide a forum for sharing knowledge related to empirical research including development and archiving of data, availability of existing data, and requirements for institutional review boards.

Stay tuned for additional information.