We are the Access to Justice Lab. The A2J Lab is an Arnold-Foundation-funded initiative within the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession. Our mission is to produce rigorous evidence in the fields of access to justice (civil or criminal) and adjudicatory administration, and to combat the resistance within the U.S. Bench and Bar to rigorous empirical thinking.
Who are we? We are two full-time researchers, a project manager, a research associate, a faculty director, a rich variety of affiliates, and, most importantly, all of you. We hope that anyone interested in access to justice or in evidence-based thinking in the law will participate in our efforts by offering ideas, providing guidance on questions or issues that are stumping us, participating in research projects, linking us with likely partners, or telling us things we ought to know.
We also hope to make this site, and the corresponding Facebook page and Twitter feed, a place to exchange ideas on access to justice and evidence-based thinking in the law. Posts for this blog will be forthcoming on a variety of issues from different voices. For example, in a series called “Why RCTs?”, we will highlight experiences from fields such as medicine, crime prevention, and pregnancy prevention, among others. These experiences involve randomized control trials that have demonstrated how wonderful-sounding ideas promoted by doctors, crime prevention specialists, and public health advocates have resulted in disastrous programs. In each such post, we will be asking the question: are we lawyers that much smarter than doctors, crime prevention specialists, and public health advocates? If not, what wonderful-sounding programs are we pursuing that are in fact disastrous, and how would we ever find out?
In another series of posts, students at Harvard and other law schools who are working on self-help materials will share their experiences and ask for help from all of you with issues they are facing. What is the best way to help an individual in financial distress self-diagnose into bankruptcy or debt management? How can we communicate a sense of agency and optimism to victims of intimate partner violence facing the prospect of representing themselves in civil protection order proceedings?
And then there are the ever-present, big-picture questions. What should we do if we harbor doubts about whether there will ever be enough resources to offer a traditional, attorney-client relationship to everyone with a facing an adversarial civil adjudication of an issue affecting a basic human need? To everyone facing critical civil legal problems more generally? If we could get a civil Gideon, would we want it, given the experience in the criminal law?
We hope that the A2J Lab website will become a forum for discussion of these and other ideas, and that you will all help us help others.
Let’s get started!