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 4: Organization of the legal-academic discourse

Jan M. Smits

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

Extract

I commented in the Introduction that the present discussion of legal scholarship is not only about its aims and methods; it also deals with the way in which universities organize their research and teaching, assess their researchers, and classify their journals. In this debate, there is often a surprising lack of awareness about the place of legal scholarship in comparison to other disciplines. It is also not uncommon for views of how the legal discipline should evolve to be primarily determined by concerns about its quality and funding, rather than by substantive issues. In the Netherlands (cf. Stolker 2003 and 2005), the debate about the academic aspirations of legal science was boosted by a concern to defend legal research against other disciplines that do not take it seriously enough. However, the themes discussed in this chapter are not unique to legal research: many of the trends mentioned below can be found in other academic disciplines as well (such as the debate about methodology) or even in society as a whole (the turn towards ‘market thinking’).

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