Why Do We Do What We Do? Comparing Legal Methods in Five Law Schools Through Survey Evidence

Here’s a chapter by Mathias Siems (web | blog | twitter) (and me!) on legal research methods. It follows on from our 2012 piece ‘Mapping Legal Research‘, and will appear in a forthcoming edited collection. The companion website (with our data) is here, and you can download the paper from SSRN here. And the abstract:

For the purpose of this paper we conducted an empirical survey of academic staff at two German law schools (Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf; Bucerius Law School), two UK ones (University of East Anglia; University of Edinburgh) and one Irish one (Trinity College Dublin). We asked the legal scholars to indicate to what extent they identify with legal research as part of humanities, as part of social sciences, and as akin to the analysis of law in legal practice. In this paper we present and discuss our results, using tools of both classical and compositional statistics. We also relate our data to contextual information about these legal scholars (e.g., training, career stage) as well as institutional and country differences. Our main general finding is that scholars of the German law schools have a relatively strong preference for practical legal research and scholars of the UK and Irish law schools a relatively strong preference for law as humanities. Some of our specific findings are that international legal scholars tend to be closer to the social sciences and that younger scholars and private lawyers tend to be closer to practical legal research. We also observe some signs of convergence since, across the five law schools, scholars told us that they tend to use practical legal research methods less often, and social sciences methods more often, than ten years ago.