CourseThe Law and Behavior Research Lab - Law 628C
Instructor Christopher Robertson   View Faculty Page
Units 3 - Graded

 Permission of the instructor.

Recommended Courses:  

This course will be run like a research lab in the sciences, where graduate students join a professor’s research enterprise.  This course will pair law students with undergraduate honors students to collaboratively plan, conduct, and hopefully publish original social science research, testing important questions for legal reform and social policy, under my supervision and often, co-authorship.  

This research will be inherently interdisciplinary – drawing on legal, economic, psychological, political, sociological, and philosophical literatures.   Examples of research topics include:  How much do offers of immunity cause witnesses to lie, and do juries sufficiently account for that possibility?  Would a policy that mandates that physicians disclose conflicts of interest improve patient decision-making, and how should such disclosures be given? I have defined key research questions and secured some financial support for research expenses, and will train you to do each step of the research process (from doctrinal review and social science review, through development of stimulus and instrument, to recruiting human subjects, statistical analysis, and write-up), working with a social scientist who is leading the undergrad portion of the course.  

In this way, the Research Lab will allow you to delve deeply into a particular question of the law (e.g., a particular rule of evidence or a regulatory disclosure mandate), but also allow you to develop a hands-on understanding of the scientific method and the problem of causal inference, which are relevant to all sorts of lawyering situations.  This course will satisfy the substantial paper requirement.  For examples of our research methods, see SSRN abstracts 1884765, 1762266, & 2109894.  (Note that surveys and archival dataset analyses are outside the scope of the course, which focuses on experimental methods.)


Empirical Methods in Law (2009) by Robert M. Lawless, Jennifer K. Robbennolt, and Thomas S. Ulen (Aspen Publishers, ISBN:  978-0735577251).

Other readings will be distributed via D2L in portable document format ("PDF").

Basic statistical instruction will be provided using the softward R, which can be downloaded for free at

Other materials, such as online survey softward or clipboards, etc. may be required, depending on your particular research methodology.


Course Format

Most of the work done for this class will be done in research teams, and the teams will generally be graded collectively.  Each student will be individually responsible for maintainin her colunn in the research log (hosted in the cloud, accessible to all team members and the instructors), showing his or her regular contributions to the team.  Students will make an entry every single week, indicating what research tasks (if any) he or she performed.

Each member of the team will also be required to submit an anonymous evaluation of the contribution of every other member of the team.

Student are expected to attend class every week, including workshop days.  These are key times for research teams to work together, and to receive informal consultations.

Written Assignments

The ultimate product of this course is, of course, an empirical paper of publishable quality describing your research project and discussing the implications of your results.  Assignments include readings in preparation for class discussion and, as shown in the table below, several tasks surrounding creation of your final paper.

Assignment and Percent Grade
Project Proposal - 10%
Doctrinal Review (paper and presentation) - 10%
Literature Review (paper and presentation) - 10%
Methodology (stimulus, instrument, budget) - 10%
Results and Statistical Analysis - 10%
Final Paper - 20%
Presentation - 15%
Research Log (weekly progress report) - 15%

Type of Exam  
Basis for grading


The course will be three credits, and will satisfy the substantial paper requirement. The course will be graded, but exempt from the curve, in recognition that students will be admitted by application, expected to produce publishable scientific research, and will work in teams.
Additional Comments

To apply for this course:  Please write a letter of interest of no more than 700 words.  No particular background or training is required, but please highlight any skills or interests that may be relevant.  Please attach your resume and (unofficial) academic transcripts from law school and undergraduate programs.  Please submit the letter, resume, and transcripts to me by email by 5pm on Friday, October 5, with a hardcopy in my faculty mailbox.  (If you are applying for both, please do so separately.)  My intention is to select the students in time for you to plan the rest of your course schedule.

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