Scholarly Articles and Other Contributions
 

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2012

Abstract

This project is part of Professor Mullen's larger Bellow Scholars research agenda, which concerns access-to-justice issues at the OAH more generally. This project tried to ascertain whether self-represented parties (both employees3 and employers) in unemployment insurance (UI) appeals perceive a need for more legal assistance. For three weeks in November of 2009, law students from The Catholic University of America administered a survey that asked self-represented parties in UI appeals whether, based on their experiences in the hearing, they perceived a need for more legal assistance and whether there were aspects of the hearings that they found particularly challenging. Initially Professor Mullen sought Professor Pumar's expertise to ensure that the sample size was adequate and the survey methodology sound. As the project was initially conceived, Professor Mullen would draft the survey, Professor Pumar would review it, and law student volunteers would administer it. After an initial conversation, Professor Mullen and Professor Pumar decided that one significant component of the project should be to involve law students in all aspects of the survey process. So, while this project began as an effort to determine whether self-represented parties who appear before the OAH in UI appeals perceive a need for legal assistance, it evolved into something more-an interdisciplinary collaboration between a sociologist (Professor Pumar) and a lawyer (Professor Mullen) on educating law students about using survey methodology to improve access to justice. The hope was that the students would learn how to conduct empirical research, which might be valuable in their future careers. At a minimum, this research would make the law students better able to evaluate research they encounter post graduation.

This article details that collaboration and reports the results of the survey. Part I explains why the project was undertaken and examines the need for legal representation in Ul appeals. Part II describes how the research was conducted, with an emphasis on the key role played by students in framing the research questions, and drafting, pretesting, and administering the survey. This section may provide a model for others who might wish to engage in similar law and sociology collaborations. Part III reports the findings. The final section offers conclusions about training law students to conduct empirical research and about the need for additional legal resources for parties in UI appeals and finishes with some recommendations.

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