Two Law School Rumors

Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard the same two reoccurring rumors and I’m wondering what opinions, of any, law professors have about them.

The first is that there is a slow but systematic trend in law schools to train students in quantitative methods. If this is true, my question is: to what extent are schools fulfilling this? That is, are they just encouraging students to take basic statistics classes, or are there more systematic efforts to require (for example) econometric classes? (Yes, I see that there is growing empirical legal research, but this seems to come from faculty, rather than law students.)

The second relates to the hiring of new faculty within law schools. On one hand, I see increased competition from JD/PhDs (suggesting that a JD is becoming necessary but not sufficient), while on the other hand, I’ve heard that law schools are becoming more interdisciplinary and even hiring those without a JD, but who have a PhD in another field. Can both of these be true, or am I wildly mistaken?

(If this has already been discussed, I’m happy enough if someone posts a link.)

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3 Responses

  1. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    Sasha: No to both.

    (1) Required law courses are few: first-year basic law stuff, a writing class, a legal ethics class. Then students are free to choose.

    No law school offers econometrics or statistics classes, though there is a course at a few about analytical methods that may include baby stats, baby finance, baby accounting, and baby economics. I don’t see any schools formally encouraging students to take statistics and certainly not econometrics. One reason many people choose law school over business school is that they hate such subjects.

    (2) Law faculty members without JDs remain a tiny minority and I see no reason to predict that changing, though mature faculties are willing to embrace the occasional impressive candidate without legal training.

  2. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    Updating my previous comment, I should have stressed, to my knowledge. I now learn that (a) Virginia used to offer a stats course that’s now folded into its analytical methods course; (b) Columbia might offer stats taught by an adjunct; (c) Michigan may have offered stats once last year; and (d) Stanford Law lists offering courses in statistical inference and econometrics. My own sense remains, however, that this is not a hot trend in legal education, but perhaps something particularly appealing to students interested in law teaching.

  3. Scott Bauries says:

    Sorry for the longish comment, but I think this is particularly relevant to the empirical methods queston. At SEALS this summer, Professor Todd Peppers of Washington & Lee will lead a panel entitled “Teaching Empirical Methods to Law Students.” To me, this suggests that, although most law schools do not offer specific courses in quantitative methods, a good number have at least begun investigating how to include quantitative methods instruction in the curriculum. Of course, some fields, such as employment discrimination, require some statistical literacy, so it is likely that students in most law schools get some instruction in how to read and interpret simple statistics in unique (primarily litigation) contexts.

    Here is the description (in pertinent part) from the SEALS program, which is available at :

    Teaching Empirical Methods to Law Students

    The panelists would discuss not only how to teach research methods, but how to apply them in the classroom. Based on my research, there appear to be two types of empirical methods courses being taught in law schools. The first give students a basic understanding of empirical methods so they can then examine how lawyers and judges use/abuse social scientific research. So, for example, the students are first taught how to construct, administer, and analyze surveys before focusing on how surveys are used to support change of venue motions or to establish applicable community standards in obscenity cases. The second type of course has students use their nascent social science skills to read, understand and critique articles written by social scientists on judicial behavior and judicial institutions. In creating the panel, we would like to draw upon professors who teach both types of courses.

    Moderator: Professor Todd Peppers, Washington & Lee University School of Law.

    Speakers: Professor Joanna Shepherd, Emory Law School; Professor Jennifer Robbenolt, University of Illinois College of Law; Professor Jeremy Blumenthal, Syracuse University College of Law; Professor Malynda Price, University of Kentucky College of Law.