Empirical Legal Research

Empirical Legal Research

A Guidance Book for Lawyers, Legislators and Regulators

Frans L. Leeuw and Hans Schmeet

Empirical Legal Research describes how to investigate the roles of legislation, regulation, legal policies and other legal arrangements at play in society. It is invaluable as a guide to legal scholars, practitioners and students on how to do empirical legal research, covering history, methods, evidence, growth of knowledge and links with normativity. This multidisciplinary approach combines insights and approaches from different social sciences, evaluation studies, Big Data analytics and empirically informed ethics. The book discusses the tensions between the normative character of law and legal issues and the descriptive and causal character of empirical legal research, and suggests ways to help handle this seeming disconnect.

Chapter 9: Transferring research results to legal professionals, utilization and the fact-value dichotomy

Frans L. Leeuw and Hans Schmeet

Subjects: law - academic, criminal law and justice, law and society, research methods in law, research methods, research methods in law


The times that publishing a report of 232 pages with statistics, references and a summary finalized a project, have gone. Not only is data visualization indispensable, but after the report is finished, factsheets (‘two pagers’), seminars, webinars, YouTube movies and TED (like) communication activities are needed to stimulate the transfer, dissemination and utilization of findings and conclusions. To ensure that lawyers, legislators and policy officials get to know the findings, take notice of them and decide to use them, more actions are needed, as Box 9.1 shows. This section looks into the transfer and utilization process and summarizes insights from (review and synthesis) studies dealing with topics like ‘evidence-based policy making’ and ‘knowledge utilization’. However, the transfer and utilization of results from ELR into legal scholarship and practice is more than just communication and persuasion. It also implies an epistemological issue, as the dominant legal tradition is doctrinal, while the type of knowledge produced by ELR is descriptive, exploratory or explanatory. Doctrinal legal research is ‘to a large extent, a discipline which takes normative propositions and makes choices among values and interests’ (van Hoecke, 2011: 10, emphasis added). In section 9.2 we will discuss this issue.

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