Thursday, September 01, 2011
Attending the 'Conducting Empirical Legal Scholarship Workshop'
When I had a few weeks to kill the summer before I started college, I decided that I needed a bike. My brother suggested that I get a used bike, some tooks and recondition it myself. After borrowing a how-to guide, I stripped my new (used) bike down the bearings and I never saw bikes in the same way again.
It was in that spirit that I attended the Conducting Empirical Legal Scholarship Workshop at Northwestern Law last May. I was on a sabbatical, had a few days to kill and wanted to learn more about the internal process of empirical research. The workshop is run by Lee Epstein and Andrew Martin, who provide a tremendous amount of information. My field is intellectual property with a heavy emphasis on patents, in which new empirical scholarship is very frequent and very informative.
What surprised me most about the conference was that, in addition to the volume of information about the mechanics of designing and conducting empirical research, both Epstein and Martin provided a wealth of information about the academic standards that should be employed while doing so. To test myself, I brought an article that I had read several months earlier. At the time that I originally read the piece, I had one (basic) level of understanding of the work. After finishing the Epstein/Martin workshop, I re-read the same article in its entirety. I found virtues and flaws that I simply never seen before. Although at that moment I was several months away from designing my own project, I found that I was able to assess empirical research in a far more informed way.
If my experience is any guide, it's well worth your time and you'll never see an empirical piece the same way again. If you are considering taking a course, I'd recommend doing so (sooner rather than later, depending on your field). Epstein has just moved to USC, it may be that the course will move as well.
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