Teaching Statistics in Law Schools

Back in 2011, I came across a blog post about a rumor of a trend in law school education to train law students in quantitative methods. Sasha Romanosky, “Two Law School RumorsConcurring Opinions (Jan. 20, 2011). Of course, the notion that that quantitative methods and statistics would become essential to a liberal and a professional education reaches back to the 19th century. Holmes famously wrote that:

“For the rational study of the law the blackletter man may be the man of the present, but the man of the future is the man of statistics and the master of economics.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “The Path of Law” 10 Harvard Law Rev. 457 (1897). A few years later, H.G. Wells expanded the pre-requisite from lawyering to citizenship, generally:

“The great body of physical science, a great deal of the essential fact of financial science, and endless social and political problems are only accessible and only thinkable to those who have had a sound training in mathematical analysis, and the time may not be very remote when it will be understood that for complete initiation as an efficient citizen of one of the new great complex worldwide States that are now developing, it is as necessary to be able to compute, to think in averages and maxima and minima, as it is now to be able to read and write.”

Herbert George Wells, Mankind in the Making 204 (1903).

Certainly, there have been arguments made that statistics and quantitative analyses more generally should be part of the law school curriculum. See, e.g., Yair Listokin, “Why Statistics Should be Mandatory for Law Students” Prawfsblawg (May 22, 2006); Steven B. Dow, “There’s Madness in the Method: A Commentary on Law, Statistics, and the Nature of Legal Education,” 57 Okla. L. Rev. 579 (2004).

Judge Richard Posner has described the problem in dramatic Kierkegaardian terms of “fear and loathing.”Jackson v. Pollion, 733 F.3d 786, 790 (7th Cir. 2013). Stopping short of sickness unto death, Judge Posner catalogued the “lapse,” at the expense of others, in the words of judges and commentators:

“This lapse is worth noting because it is indicative of a widespread, and increasingly troublesome, discomfort among lawyers and judges confronted by a scientific or other technological issue. “As a general matter, lawyers and science don’t mix.” Peter Lee, “Patent Law and the Two Cultures,” 120 Yale L.J. 2, 4 (2010); see also Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., ___ U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 2107, 2120, (2013) (Scalia, J., concurring in part and concurring in the judgment) (“I join the judgment of the Court, and all of its opinion except Part I–A and some portions of the rest of the opinion going into fine details of molecular biology. I am unable to affirm those details on my own knowledge or even my own belief”); Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 599 (1993) (Rehnquist, C.J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (‘‘the various briefs filed in this case … deal with definitions of scientific knowledge, scientific method, scientific validity, and peer review—in short, matters far afield from the expertise of judges’’); Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. of America v. United States, 320 U.S. 1, 60–61 (1943) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting in part) (‘‘it is an old observation that the training of Anglo–American judges ill fits them to discharge the duties cast upon them by patent legislation’’); Parke–Davis & Co. v. H.K. Mulford Co., 189 F. 95, 115 (S.D.N.Y. 1911) (Hand, J.) (‘‘I cannot stop without calling attention to the extraordinary condition of the law which makes it possible for a man without any knowledge of even the rudiments of chemistry to pass upon such questions as these … . How long we shall continue to blunder along without the aid of unpartisan and authoritative scientific assistance in the administration of justice, no one knows; but all fair persons not conventionalized by provincial legal habits of mind ought, I should think, unite to effect some such advance’’); Henry J. Friendly, Federal Jurisdiction: A General View 157 (1973) (‘‘I am unable to perceive why we should not insist on the same level of scientific understanding on the patent bench that clients demand of the patent bar, or why lack of such understanding by the judge should be deemed a precious asset’’); David L. Faigman, Legal Alchemy: The Use and Misuse of Science in Law xi (1999) (‘‘the average lawyer is not merely ignorant of science, he or she has an affirmative aversion to it’’).

Of course, ignorance of the law is no excuse for the ordinary citizen[1]. Ignorance of science and math should be no excuse for the ordinary judge or lawyer.

In the 1960s, Michael Finkelstein introduced a course on statistics and probability into the curriculum of the Columbia Law School. The class has had an unfortunate reputation of being “difficult.” One year, when Prof. Finkelstein taught the class at Yale Law School, the students petitioned him not to give a final examination. Apparently, the students were traumatized by facing problems that actually have right and wrong answers! Michael O. Finkelstein, “Teaching Statistics to Law Students,” in L. Pereira-Mendoza, L.S. Kea, T.W.Kee, & W.K. Wong, eds., I Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Teaching Statistics at 505 (1998).

Law school is academia’s “last clear chance” to avoid having statistically illiterate lawyers running amok. Do law schools take advantage of the opportunity? For the most part, understanding statistical concepts is not required for admission to, or for graduation from, law school. Some law schools helpfully offer courses to address the prevalent gap in statistics education at the university level. I have collected some of the available law school offerings from law school websites, and collected below. If you know of any omissions, please let me know.

Law School Courses

Columbia Law School: Statistics for Lawyers (Schachtman)

Emory Law:  Analytical Methods for Lawyers; Statistics for Lawyers (Joanna M. Shepherd)

Florida State College of Law:  Analytical Methods for Lawyers (Murat C. Mungan)

Fordham University School of Law:  Legal Process & Quantitative Methods

George Mason University School of Law:  Quantitative Forensics (Kobayashi); Statistics for Lawyers and Policy Analysts (Dick Ippolito)

George Washington University Law School:  Quantitative Analysis for Lawyers; The Law and Regulation of Science

Georgetown Law School:  Analytical Methods (Joshua Teitelbaum); Analyzing Empirical Research for Lawyers (Juliet Aiken); Epidemiology for Lawyers (Kraemer)

Santa Clara University, School of Law:  Analytical Methods for Lawyers (David Friedman)

Harvard Law School:  Analytical Methods for Lawyers (Kathryn Spier); Analytical Methods for Lawyers; Fundamentals of Statistical Analysis (David Cope)

Loyola Law School:  Statistics (Doug Stenstrom)

Marquette University School of Law:  Quantitative Methods

Michigan State:  Analytical Methods for Lawyers (Statistics) (Gia Barboza); Quantitative Analysis for Lawyers (Daniel Martin Katz)

New York Law School:  Statistical Literacy

New York University Law School:  Quantitative Methods in Law Seminar (Daniel Rubinfeld)

Northwestern Law School:  Quantitative Reasoning in the Law (Jonathan Koehler); Statistics & Probability (Jonathan Koehler)

Notre Dame Law School: Analytical Methods for Lawyers (M. Barrett)

Ohio Northern University Claude W. Pettit College of Law:  Analytical Methods for Lawyers

Stanford Law School:  Statistical Inference in the Law; Bayesian Statistics and Econometrics (Daniel E. Ho); Quantitative Methods – Statistical Inference (Jeff Strnad)

University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law:  Law, Statistics & Economics (Katherine Y. Barnes)

University of California at Berkeley:  Quantitative Methods (Kevin Quinn); Introductory Statistics (Justin McCrary)

University of California, Hastings College of Law:  Scientific Method for Lawyers (David Faigman)

University of California at Irvine:  Statistics for Lawyers

University of California at Los Angeles:  Quantitative Methods in the Law (Richard H. Sander)

University of Colorado: Quantitative Methods in the Law (Paul Ohm)

University of Connecticut School of Law:  Statistical Reasoning in the Law

University of Michigan:  Statistics for Lawyers

University of Minnesota:  Analytical Methods for Lawyers: An Introduction (Parisi)

University of Pennsylvania Law School:  Analytical Methods (David S. Abrams); Statistics for Lawyers (Jon Klick)

University of Texas at Austin:  Analytical Methods (Farnworth)

University of Washington:  Quantitative Methods In The Law (Mike Townsend)

Vanderbilt Law School: Statistical Concepts for Lawyer (Edward Cheng)

Wake Forest: Analytical Methods for Lawyers

Washington University St. Louis School of Law: Social Scientific Research for Lawyers (Andrew D. Martin)

Washington & Lee Law School: The Role of Social Science in the Law (John Keyser)

William & Mary Law School: Statistics for Lawyers

William Mitchell College of Law:  Statistics Workshop (Herbert M. Kritzer)

Yale Law School:  Probability Modeling and Statistics LAW 26403

[1] See Ignorantia juris non excusat.


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