May 25, 2016


Using empirical research to make the U.S. justice system work better for everyone.

The Problem
The portion of the U.S. justice system that deals with people is in permanent crisis. 80% of family cases have a lawyerless litigant. Average caseloads can require state public defenders to initiate, investigate, bargain or try, and/or appeal two cases per day. For individuals and families without lawyers, courts are complex, full of jargon, hard to navigate, and scary. The good news is that there are already many proposed solutions to these challenges. The problem is that we don’t know which of those solutions make a difference.

What We Believe
Providing decision makers in law with credible evidence about what works—the kind of information that comes from randomized control trials and rigorous qualitative evidence—will allow them to implement solutions that will provide better access to justice for individuals and families. When we say law needs to become evidence-based, we mean that law needs to use lessons learned from randomized (not observational) evaluations and strong qualitative investigation. These techniques will give decision makers confidence that the interventions they deploy will create the impacts that they want.

What We Do
The Access to Justice (A2J) Lab advances the required transformation by fielding randomized experiments to find what works and then generalizing results into actionable lessons. The Lab creates knowledge, constructs best practices, and trains current and future scholars and practitioners to transform the U.S. justice system.

The Lab has a four-pronged approach to transforming law into a profession founded in empirical research. The core pillars of our method are:

DESIGNING access-to-justice interventions and gold-standard, randomized evaluations.

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IMPLEMENTING randomized control trials to find out what works for individuals and families in civil and criminal law.

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SHARING lessons learned and best practices to transform the system.

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TRAINING current and future practitioners, scholars, and judges in methods and results to increase capacity and support for rigorous empirical research.

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