The Access to Justice Lab is dedicated to transforming adjudicatory administration and engagement with the courts into evidence-based fields.
In no field is resistance to evidence-based thinking more ferocious than in United States legal practice. For more than a century, U. S. practice and judging have reflected an ethos of professionalism in which individual lawyers and judges purport to make irreducibly complex judgments about each client’s or litigant’s legal needs and the merits of their claims. Only a lawyer knows what is best for a client, and the only person a lawyer should listen to about her client’s legal needs is another lawyer. As a result, law currently recognizes only two sources of truth about what works and what doesn’t: (i) the pronouncements of legal elites, and (ii) each individual lawyer’s or judge’s own personal experience.
Almost a century ago, U.S. medicine was the same. In the 1920s and 1930s, doctors thought that they alone, as professionals, knew what was best for patients, and that no non-physician could say anything useful to improve professional medical judgments. In this time period, medicine recognized only two sources of truth about what worked: (i) the pronouncements of medical elites, and (ii) each physician’s own personal experiences with “his” particular patients.
Medicine transformed itself from an art into (more of) a science. Starting more than 100 years ago, medicine began to recognize a role for ideas from non-medical fields. And in the first half of the Twentieth Century, medicine began accepting the randomized control trials (“RCTs”), as a critical tool in deciding what works. U.S. legal practice, another other quintessential U. S. profession, underwent no transformational change.