A Guidance Book for Lawyers, Legislators and Regulators
Chapter 1: Introducing empirical legal research and structure of the book
Characterizing empirical legal research (abbreviated as: ELR) for lawyers, legislators and regulators is not that easy. One reason is the difference between the way lawyers and ‘empiricists’ think. While both modes of thinking are grounded in rigorous analysis, lawyers and empiricists often have different goals and approaches. Legal analysis places a premium on argumentation and appeals to authority, is frequently geared toward proving a particular view, is often focused on the particulars of an individual case, and is directed at reaching a definitive conclusion. In contrast, empirical analysis places a premium on observation, challenges assumptions, is oriented toward the testing of hypotheses, is usually focused on describing patterns that operate in the aggregate, and is a continuing enterprise in which new work builds on that which came before and generates even more questions for further investigation. (Lawless, Robbennolt and Ulen, 2010:10) Although this contrast is exaggerated, there are notable differences between the two types of work. A second reason why a characterization is difficult is that ELR makes it necessary to consider topics that students, scholars and practitioners of law are often not acquainted with. When you hear about empirical legal research, you probably think about data and how the data was collected. You will wonder how the (legal or societal) problem at hand was ‘translated’ into a research(able) problem.