Quantitative legal prediction and the wisdom of crowds

Professor Dan Katz gave a great talk at UCL’s Centre for Ethics and Law last night .  You can see the slide deck here.  It ranged from his Fantasy SCOTUS predictor to the power of random forests of decision trees to aid concrete legal decision-making.  It turns out the best human predictor of US Supreme Court decisions is probably not some hot shot Washington lawyer but an actuary called Jacob, who can’t explain in legally coherent ways why he is so good at this (let’s face it, we’ve all been there, eh boys?). And that, in Dan’s view, “We have too many decisions in law made by single experts”: a point increasingly recognised by law firm risk committees, litigation funders and (naturally enough) insurers. His essential point was that ensembles of experts, crowds and algorithms are very likely to be the best predictors of legal outcomes.

A point of some note for those interested in how this all really works is Dan’s pioneering courses of Quantitative methods for lawyers and legal analytics.  You can see his courses online and teach yourself.

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About Richard Moorhead

Director of the Centre for Ethics and Law and Professor of Law and Professional Ethics at the Faculty of Laws, University College London with an interest in teaching and research on the legal ethics, the professions, legal aid, access to justice and the courts.
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