A Guidance Book for Lawyers, Legislators and Regulators
Chapter 10: Empirical legal research: booming business and growth of knowledge?
‘Traditional legal scholarship is under pressure. Debates are taking place on the aims and methods of the academic study of law’. These are some of the introductory words by Smits (2012) in his book on the state of the legal sciences. Debates address a wide range of topics, ranging from the methodology of legal research, the curriculum and the future of the profession to the ‘disruptive’ influence that digitization, machine learning and Big Data may have. At the same time the message can be heard that there is an (empirical) revolution going on in the legal sciences. Ho and Kramer (2013) advocate this thesis. They counted the proportion of Stanford Law Review articles mentioning the word ‘empirical’ over a period of almost 60 years, which made them call the development a revolution. A word count is a thin indicator of the ‘empirical engagement’ of legal researchers, as using this word does not necessarily imply that empirical research has been done. Diamond and Mueller (2010: 587) searched deeper and analyzed the content of 60 law review volumes published between 1998 and 2008: ‘Our content analysis revealed that by 2008 nearly half of law review articles included some empirical content. Production of original research is less common’.
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