Summaries of Randomized Control Trials in the US Legal Profession

Melissa Gayton was a 2018-19 Special Projects Assistant with the Access to Justice Lab and is a graduate of Harvard College.

In 2016, James Greiner and Andrea Matthews published an essay analyzing randomized control trials in the US legal profession. In the article, they defined randomized control trials as those that meet five criteria:

  • They had to be conducted in the United States
  • They must be field studies of real-world interventions
  • They must randomly assign participants in the study to at least two conditions
  • This randomization must replace the decision of a judge or lawyer
  • They must be conducted with the purpose of producing knowledge.

In total, they identified 50 studies that met these requirements. The A2J Lab has prepared summaries of each one. In order to help explore these studies, I have created a website that provides information about each study, such as publishing dates, funding information, and content topics. [You can also view this tool on the A2J Lab’s Prior RCTs in Law page, which includes the full set of article summaries.]

To search through the summaries, you can check the “Table” tab. The table includes the citation, author(s), year and type of publication, whether the study was conducted on criminal or civil cases, the study’s funder, and the intervention type. Above the table, you can sort the results, narrow the number of results, and search within the results. For example, if you only want to see studies of interventions in civil cases, then you can type “civil” in the search bar.

In this first row, you can see that the study was written by Anthony Partridge and Allan Lind in 1983. They were studying alternative dispute resolution in the civil justice system, and the study was funded and published by the Federal Judicial Center.

You can also scroll down to the bottom of the table to search within a specific column or navigate to another page.

Under the “Graphs” tab, you can see a few visualizations that explain the distribution of the studies across time and different topics. They are all bar graphs, and each one includes a brief explanation of the graph’s content. They aren’t interactive like the table, but they provide important information about the studies. For example, from the graph displaying years of publication for the studies, you can see that there seems to be increasing numbers of randomized control trials in the legal profession over time.

We hope you this website helps you explore the summaries we have prepared, and we look forward to sharing additional summaries and updates.

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