Where Legal Studies and Statistics Intersect
You're someone who isn't intimidated by math. Maybe you majored in economics, or taught yourself to program, or studied genetics. Now, you're thinking about law school.
The UA is a leader in the emerging field of law and data, which applies quantitative and statistical findings to legal problems, and which studies how law regulates Big Data.
At Arizona Law, you'll have the chance to learn from and work with nationally-recognized experts who are tackling the most difficult and interesting data problems out there.
What does all of this mean in practice? Let some of our faculty explain their law and data work in their own words:
Data can uncover hidden social and legal problems. I used traffic stop records from the Maryland State Police from 1995 through 2000 to show that the police used race and ethnicity to choose which motorists to pull over and search.
Then I created a model to predict how much drugs the police would have interdicted if they ignored race. It demonstrated that while race is the strongest factor in identifying drug traffickers, using that factor comes at enormous cost: black motorists who were subject to search were also more likely to be innocent.
Data can have a big impact. For example, at the beginning of the 2007 foreclosure crisis, I put together a team to survey people going through mortgage foreclosure. Half of the foreclosures actually had medical causes in which people who lost work due to illness couldn't afford to pay their bills.
The White House has frequently cited our study as a primary example of how our dysfunctional healthcare insurance system undermined the larger economy. I started the mortgage foreclosure study as a law student and have now received major funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to repeat it, this time much more robustly.
Data can help aspiring lawyers best choose their law school. I used data sets on law students’ schools, grades, and career paths to analyze what factors accurately predict how much money they make in their careers and whether or not they will become a partner if they join a law firm.
The conventional wisdom is wrong: For all but a handful of elite schools, performance in law school (grades) was a much stronger indicator of career achievement than the school itself. Prestige is overrated.
Data can reveal disparate treatments provided by the legal system. I studied how bankruptcy filings vary by race. Chapter 7 bankruptcies typically offer more protection to consumers than Chapter 13 filings. Yet, empirical research indicates that African-American filers are much more likely to use Chapter 13.
To find out why, I used a survey of bankruptcy attorneys. The results showed attorneys were more likely to recommend Chapter 13 to clients with African-American names and church membership than to ones with white names and religious affiliations. These studies combine to raise fundamental questions about the fairness of our bankruptcy system.