We at the LLT Lab integrate legal research, education and actual practice. So we look for projects and samples of decisions in legal areas that:
- Have substantial social importance, and in particular increase access to justice;
- Would benefit from increased accuracy and efficiency; and
- Would produce research that will translate to other legal areas.
We are confident that such projects would usefully serve both legal practice and legal education.
First, we consider the social importance of a potential project. To the extent that the area of law is important, and the legal decisions in that area place a high priority on accuracy, then the Lab’s logic modeling can help achieve this societal goal. Our Vaccine/Injury Project is a good example. Vaccines are increasingly important tools of public health. As we analyze and model the factfinding reasoning of the special masters in compensation cases,
- we document recurring patterns of reasoning from evidence to findings,
- we evaluate those patterns for fairness and validity, and
- we can help develop the technology to make administration of the vaccine compensation program more efficient.
Similarly important is the area of compensation for medical accidents. In our Comparative Medical Accident Liability Project with the LIDER Lab of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, Italy, we compare the U.S. system of legal rules for medical malpractice cases with the legal rules used in Italy, and also compare factfinding approaches in the two systems. In both of these areas of health care, we hope to increase the effectiveness of the systems while decreasing their costs.
Second, we consider whether we can help increase accuracy and efficiency in the project area. The value we add is highest when the legal area contains sufficiently complex rules, and there are legal decisions with documented evidence assessment and policy-based reasoning. Moreover, the legal area should benefit from increased efficiency in evidence production or decision-making. This would be especially so where there is a reasonably high volume of decisions, with multiple decision-makers, and limited time or other resources for decision-making. Our Vaccine/Injury Project and our Comparative Medical Accident Liability Project both satisfy these criteria. In fact, health care is generally a prime area for our research. Moreover, an area with a reasonably high volume of decisions can provide a sample large enough to allow calibrating our reasoning models and then validating (testing) those models.
Finally, we consider the potential to translate our research into broader applications. Some of the patterns of reasoning we discover might provide guidance for other kinds of legal decisions. For example, patterns based more on logic, statistical theory or scientific method could be more transferable than patterns based primarily on legal policy. Moreover, the Lab’s methodology and management methods can be generalized to other situations and institutions. Also, when we develop practical tools for legal practice and education, these techniques are often transferable. So our last criterion for selecting a project and a sample of decisions is that the research will add to our growing arsenal of insights, methods and tools.