Nearly 250 scholars from around the world converged at Cornell Law School for a conference showcasing research that uses empirical legal studies in fields ranging from politics to medicine. Researchers presented 105 papers at the Conference on Empirical Legal Studies (CELS), held from October 13-14 at Myron Taylor Hall. It was the second time Cornell Law School has hosted the annual conference.
"In the field of empirical legal studies, CELS remains the gold standard and every year attracts the most prominent and influential empirical legal scholars from around the world," said Eduardo M. Peñalver, the Allan R. Tessler Dean at Cornell Law School.
For this year's conference, Peñalver said more than 300 papers were submitted by scholars from more than twenty-five countries who specialize in more than twenty different disciplines. A committee of Cornell Law School faculty selected the papers presented at the conference.
Cornell Law School has strong ties to the empirical legal studies movement because of the large number of faculty members who work in the field. The late Theodore "Ted" Eisenberg, who was the Henry Allen Mark Professor of Law, is considered one of the founders of the movement.
"Ted was the spark for empirical legal research throughout the world but his presence here at Cornell helped to foment and grow a vibrant culture for empirical legal studies among the faculty here at the Law School," said Dawn Chutkow, visiting professor of law and executive editor of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. "You can see the fruits of that today."
Fourteen professors from Cornell Law School were involved in organizing, presenting, or commenting on papers presented at this year's conference, Chutkow said.
In honor of Eisenberg, a poster contest was created to recognize outstanding scholarship at the conference. Members of Eisenberg's family presented this year's award to Greg Buchak, a law and doctoral student in economics at the University of Chicago. His poster explored the motivations of people who anonymously offer loans on Reddit, the social media site.
The selection of Buchak as the winner of the poster contest is representative of the types of researchers who are attracted to the empirical legal studies field. Chutkow said this type of research, which uses data analysis to explore legal issues, tends to draw scholars who have law degrees as well as Ph.D.s in other disciplines such as political science, economics, psychology, and sociology.
William Hubbard, a University of Chicago law professor who accepted the award for Buchak, said CELS is one of the highlights of the year for him. "You just get people from all over the world and from all different disciplines all sharing this common set of interests and this common language of speaking in terms of what the data can tell us," he said.
Kristen Bell, a fellow at Yale Law School, said she found the conference helpful in gaining feedback on a paper she presented on an empirical analysis of youth offender parole decisions in California. "I think people have a real mix of being supportive and finding the best in each piece while also offering constructive criticism so that the author can improve, which is exactly what a conference should do," she said.