The Mind and Method of the Legal Academic

The Mind and Method of the Legal Academic

Jan M. Smits

Jan Smits assesses the recent turn away from doctrinal research towards a more empirical and theoretical way of legal investigation and offers a fresh perspective on what it is that legal academics should deal with and how they should do it. The book also considers the consequences which follow for the organization of the legal discipline by universities and uses this context to discuss the key questions of the internationalization of law schools, quality assessments, legal education and the research culture.

Chapter 1: Legal science: a typology

Jan M. Smits

Subjects: law - academic, comparative law, legal philosophy, legal theory, research methods in law


It is clear that the term ‘legal scholarship’ covers many different types of research. And yet, there is only paltry discussion about how to categorize the various research efforts in law. This chapter aims to distinguish between ways of doing legal research on the basis of the questions one can ask about the law. The classifi cation of legal research can also be based on other criteria. A common one is to follow the ever-increasing subdivisions within the legal field. In so far as the existence of separate professorial chairs and law journals is a criterion for qualifying a fi eld as a separate sub-discipline, one can only conclude that many new fields have emerged in the last fifty years. Everything that, until the 1950s, was often covered by only one chair on private law now tends to be cut up into separate fi elds of contract law, tort law, property law, land law, family law, company law (often again split up into corporate governance, transport law, insurance law, intellectual property law, and so on), and insolvency law. An alternative to this is the so-called functional fields approach, where the laws are categorized according to some societal issue, as in the case of social law, construction law and environmental law, or in line with a certain category of people, as in consumer law, juvenile law, migration law and the field of law and feminism. These categorizations have little relevance to questions about the aim and method of legal research for they only deal with the substantive matter of what is being investigated, and not with the investigation itself.

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