Research Handbook on Modern Legal Realism
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Research Handbook on Modern Legal Realism

Edited by Shauhin Talesh, Elizabeth Mertz and Heinz Klug

This insightful Research Handbook provides a definitive overview of the New Legal Realism (NLR) movement, reaching beyond historical and national boundaries to form new conversations. Drawing on deep roots within the law-and-society tradition, it demonstrates the powerful virtues of new legal realist research and its attention to the challenges of translation between social science and law. It explores an impressive range of contemporary issues including immigration, policing, globalization, legal education, and access to justice, concluding with and examination of how different social science disciplines intersect with NLR.
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Chapter 21: Access to justice

Rebecca L. Sandefur


Empirical research into access to justice is enjoying a renaissance. The new research resonates strongly with the concerns and approaches of the new legal realism. Contemporary access to civil justice research comprises four distinct approaches, each reflecting the intersection of two different dimensions framing scholars’ research questions. One reflects a choice between manifestations of law as the reference point of the research: the “law on the books” or the “law in action.” The other reflects how researchers define access to justice, understanding it as principally about process, or as some kind of substantive experience, result or outcome. More of the new research is moving beyond a narrow focus on the evaluation of specific interventions, and more is appearing in peer-reviewed venues, subject to disciplines’ requirements for scientific rigor and theoretical engagement and engaged in broader scientific conversations. This new activity is the foundation for development of a robust and coherent access to justice research agenda that can enrich understanding of what law is and how it works.

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