what’s the deal with empirical legal scholarship?


Empirical legal scholarship – why do it? Lisa Fairfax at the Conglomerate wonders if young law professors should even think about entering the fray of empirical research. Lisa states several reasons, put forward at a recent conference, to stay out of empirical work. The reasons seem strange to social scientists (who, incidentally, do research in areas that have direct application to legal scholarship). We would probably ask the opposite question: how do you get tenure without some sort of empirical research to back you up?

The question Lisa poses highlights the chasm that exists between legal scholarship and those of us in the social sciences and stirs the pot already heated up by Bainbridge-Cowen last week.

Written by brayden king

July 18, 2006 at 5:32 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Funny, our law school is actively recruiting social scientists, and in particular sociologists, at the *senior* level. Seems like most of these recruits are from PhD programs that provide solid quantitative training. Assuming this is a broader trend, in 5-10 years young law professors might not have much of a choice.



    July 18, 2006 at 11:07 pm

  2. How does your law school plan on evaluating the publications’ of these scholars? Are there different criteria for people publishing empirical pieces?



    July 18, 2006 at 11:24 pm

  3. Brayden: perhaps this is why they’re hiring at the senior level instead of the junior level first. For seniors, they can rely on “the discipline” to evaluate publications; seniors with a long-term track record of publishing in the right places are, by definition, above the bar (so to speak). For junior scholars, this isn’t an option.

    It’s probably also telling that the empirical sociologists they’re trying to hire aren’t what the sociology discipline would think of as hard-core empiricists, and they certainly aren’t using fancy methods by sociology standards.

    Sorry for the anon posting — I would use my name, but I’m not sure that the recruiting efforts to which I’m referring are public knowledge quite yet.



    July 19, 2006 at 7:44 pm

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