Student Series: From Theoretical Lectures to Field Research

One of the A2J Lab’s signature studies, the Financial Distress Research Project, has numerous moving parts and as the project has grown has brought new challenges for researchers and students. The Lab’s research seeks to bring empirics to the legal profession and persuade others of the value of rigorous evaluations, including RCTs, to figure out what works and what doesn’t in legal services. To do so our research tackles hard questions of triage, as well as new challenges like using adult education literature to push at the question of what exactly is effective self-help material. And to do so we have the help of many not-yet legal professionals, or law students, who are at a unique juncture to be able to craft self-help materials, bringing their outside knowledge before they are engaged in the profession, along with everything they are learning in the classroom. Throughout the semester we’ll be continuing this series of student blog posts where students will talk about their work on A2J Lab projects.

Our third student blogger is 2L Amanda Lee.  Amanda works on Financial Distress Research Project, creating a legal brief on small claims debt collection cases for judges to use in the proceedings. In this post Amanda talks about why she got involved in this project, what she learned when she did, and how law works in “the real world” for pro se litigants.


Student Series: Wildcard Exemptions

Students are back from break! And ready to tackle some more bankruptcy forms and self-help materials.

As we mentioned last week in our first student blog posts, there a quite a few students working on the Lab’s Financial Distress Project. They are constructing self-help materials, and in doing so learning the ins and outs of the bankruptcy process, interacting with court users, and drawing on literature from other fields.

Last week, Seth Motel talked about what he had learned from a small sample bankruptcy filings from Connecticut. This week, Alvina Pillai, also on the Bankruptcy Team of the Financial Distress Project, talks about how to navigate the complicated assessment of household items and federal “wildcard” exemptions.


Let’s Hear from Students!

The A2J Lab produces quality research on A2J issues and seeks to change hearts and minds about the value of rigorous empirical study, including RCTs, to the legal profession.  It also has a symbiotic relationship with students.  Lots of students.  Currently, over four dozen law students work on A2J Lab projects.  Some of these students will be writing blog entries to show how their work furthers Lab projects, and how the Lab provides them with opportunities to experience the real world of law.

Our first student blogger is Seth Motel.  Seth works on the Bankruptcy Team for the Financial Distress Research Project.  That means he works with several student team members to create self-help materials to allow low-income Connecticut individuals and families to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Self-help materials are one of the primary interventions that the Project will evaluate.

Seth’s post shows that a great deal of empiricism involves good, old-fashioned spadework.


The Gift of RCTs Keeps on Giving

  Just before the holidays, a monumental RCT delivered an early gift. In what is being hailed as a “scientific triumph,” a vaccination trial documented 100% protection against the Ebola virus. You read that correctly: 100%. In several prior posts, I’ve discussed how RCTs have transformed the medical profession. In this case, one can’t help but Read more about The Gift of RCTs Keeps on Giving[…]

New Year, New Activity


Blob celebrating all the access to justice related RCTs that 2017 may bring.

Happy New Year from the A2J Lab! The start of 2017 coincides with many exciting research developments and a longer-term campaign to introduce our work more broadly. Practitioners and scholars often ask us about the issues that we care about and how we commit ourselves to randomized interventions in legal services. Thankfully, the Center for Court Innovation, an organization committed to justice reform through rigorous experimentation and data analysis, shared the same questions. Aubrey Fox hosted our very own Jim Greiner on the New Thinking podcast to discuss the A2J Lab’s mission and current projects. Listen here:


On Your Mark, Get Set, Triage

Part 2 of “To Triage of Not to Triage? That is NOT the Question.”

Last week I took another dive into the world of triage- specifically focusing on some common questions and sticking points that were raised in RadioLab podcast entitled “Playing God.” As was mentioned in the previous blog post, we don’t think triage is really about playing god, rather about facing limited resources and making decisions. Last week we talked mostly about the value implications of such discussions of who lives and who dies. This week we’ll touch upon two other points. First, the reaction to not want to make triage decisions, and the second is the multitude of ways to triage and therefore the importance of RCTs in knowing which way is best in a given situation.


“To Triage or Not to Triage?” That is NOT the Question

Part 1

The Radiolab podcast from WNYC Studios is as close to appointment listening as we have in 2016. One of the show’s recent episodes, entitled “Playing God,” takes up a topic directly in the A2J Lab’s wheelhouse: triage. In a stark bit of commentary, the host characterizes the practice not as deciding how to allocate scarce resources; rather he described it as an “inhuman act which humans are trying to do.”