Empirical Legal Research
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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.
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Chapter 2: Roots of empirical legal research: a concise history in 201/4 pages

Frans L. Leeuw and Hans Schmeet


This chapter sketches the history of ELR. As contemporary textbooks sometimes make mistakes as to its ancestry, we deemed it necessary to discuss this item. We sketch – by leaps and bounds – the most important contributing (sub)disciplines and research traditions: i.e. legal realism, criminology, sociology, psychology and anthropology of law, law and economics, civilology, law and political sciences, and evaluation studies. Kritzer’s (2009: 1) essay on the contemporary history of ELR in the USA not only paid attention to studies conducted in the 1950s and early 1960s (like the American jury project, the commercial arbitration study and the court delay study), but took us further back into history: In the 1920s and 1930s, and in a few cases even earlier, one can find a wide range of empirically-oriented research on law. The specific topics of this early research include: appellate courts and appellate decision making, automobile accident compensation and litigation, bankruptcy, criminal courts, divorce, judicial staffing and judicial selection, juries and legal needs and legal aid. A significant portion of the early work was linked one way or another to the American legal realist movement.

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