The Research team works within and across IAALS’ focus areas, compiling and conducting empirical research as necessary to help to move projects forward. IAALS is one of only a handful of organizations around the country doing this kind of work in relation to the legal system and process.

What is empirical research and why is it important to the IAALS mission?

Empirical research is the systematic search for knowledge through observation or experiment. In essence, it is the gathering of evidence to inform decision-making—a familiar concept in law. Research about the legal system increases our understanding of how it is working and why. This is important because, to the extent possible, it allows IAALS to base proposed changes on data and to measure implemented changes in relation to original goals. All of this means real and positive reform, rather than change simply for the sake of change.     

How do we conduct research?

We conduct both quantitative and qualitative research. Quantitative research involves collecting numerical data for statistical analysis. Qualitative research involves collecting narratives for summary and synthesis. Our methods include:

  • Docket and case file studies
  • Surveys and questionnaires
  • In-depth interviews and focus groups

The shape and nature of our research varies according to particular project needs, but it almost always involves a multi-step process based on the scientific method.

IAALS is subject to the standards of the University of Denver’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the Protection of Human Subjects, established to ensure the ethical conduct of research. All IAALS research involving human subjects is submitted to and approved by the IRB office prior to commencing. 

Importantly, we are only able to accomplish our research with the assistance of champions within the legal system who help connect us with the information we need. We are grateful for the strong relationships and capable partners that make our research possible.