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Randomization Uber Alles?

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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1 Response

  1. Jim Greiner says:

    Hi, Dave, thanks for writing again!

    I see now we may have been addressing different subjects. Several aspects of agreement: Cassandra and I very much agree that non-pecuniary outcomes (outcomes other than win/loss and delay) are important, and we tried to speak about that in the paper; surveys can be a key component of gathering information of this kind. We agree that randomized evaluation of educational programs is a good idea in principle, subject to all of the usual concerns about such things. We also agree that randomizing methods of attempting client contact can be useful, again depending on the usual concerns and details. One thing this proposal highlights is that some legal services provides depend to some extent on client-initiated intake systems, with outreach to the community aimed at reaching an entire community (not to specific persons). Thus, figuring out what to randomize in outreach and intake could be a challenge (again, a challenge worth confronting, but a challenge).

    Speaking for myself only at this point, with respect to randomizing allocation of law student “employees,” it depends on context. For example, if the student clinic is contemplating two different models of doing its work, and it will eventually choose one or the other as its operating model for all students, a randomized evaluation might make a great deal of sense.

    In contrast, if the student clinic has two different models of doing its work, and it plans on maintaining both, randomizing students into one or the other might be counterproductive. I’m thinking here of HLAB’s practice: students usually specialize in either housing or family law. Randomizing students to housing or family law might make little sense because we WANT a selection effect here; that is, we may want students to choose the area of law of greatest interest to them, because we may hypothesize that by doing so we will get students in the family law unit that are more excited about (and who will work harder in) the family law unit.

    I could be wrong, but my guess is that we’re not disagreeing here, just making sure that we’re talking about the same ideas.