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    Quantitative empirical research into legal decisions must be conducted using statistical tools that are appropriate for the data involved. Court decisions are one example of a domain where the data is intrinsically hierarchical (i.e., multilevel), since decisions are made on individual cases by decision-makers in courts located across geographical (or jurisdictional) areas. Past research into court decisions has often either neglected higher level variables or incorrectly used single-level statistical models to analyze multilevel data. The lack of a clear understanding about when and why multilevel statistical models are required may have contributed to this situation. In this paper, we identify the problems of estimating single-level models on hierarchically structured data, and consider the advantages of conducting multilevel analyses under these circumstances. We use the example of criminal sentencing research to illustrate the arguments for the use of multilevel models and against a single-level approach. We also highlight some issues to be addressed in future sentencing studies.


Mandeep Dhami

Ian Keith Belton

    This article examines the main assumptions and theoretical underpinnings of case study method in legal studies. It considers the importance of research design, including the crucial roles of the academic literature review, the research question and the use of rival theories to develop hypotheses and the practice of identifying the observable implications of those hypotheses. It considers the selection of data sources and modes of analysis to allow for valid analytical inferences to be drawn in respect of them. In doing so it considers, in brief, the importance of case study selection and variations such as single or multi case approaches. Finally it provides thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses associated with undertaking socio-legal and comparative legal research via a case study method, addressing frequent stumbling blocks encountered by legal researchers, as well as ways to militate them. It is written with those new to the method in mind.


Lisa Webley

    Sensitive interviews involve emotionally difficult topics which require participants to face issues that are deeply personal and possibly distressing. This paper draws together reflections concerning how researchers manage the challenges of conducting sensitive interviews, including the author’s own reflections concerning interviewing clinical negligence claimants. First, it examines the ethical guidelines that regulate sensitive research, and the challenges of obtaining informed consent and maintaining confidentiality. Ethical guidelines, however, provide limited assistance for ensuring the emotional care of research participants, and we also consider challenges that are not usually formally regulated. These include preparing for the interview, and then ensuring the emotional care of participants both during and after the interview itself. Sensitive research also raises deeper ethical issues concerning the negotiation of relations between researcher and participant, especially when this relationship is unequal. Finally, while previous research has generally focused on the need to take emotional care of research participants, less attention has been given to the emotional needs of researchers. It is argued that support systems for researchers are too often ad hoc, and that providing support is often not a priority of granting bodies, grant holders or supervisors, and that formal systems need to be put in place.


Angela Melville
Flinders Law School, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia. Email: angela.melville@flinders.edu.au.

Darren Hincks
Flinders Law School, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia.

    In this article I argue that the major issue in taxonomies of interdisciplinary research is the problem of authority. In a project on the needs of Aboriginal Australians in inheritance, involving interdisciplinary research using law (in both common law and customary law form) and anthropology, issues of translateability and truth/validity arose. Issues for the Aboriginal people included problems of identifying the correct kin, dealing with the body, and protecting customary law information and secrecy, all matters which the customary law could handle but which were not recognised by Australian common law. Because the characterization of these matters in law is often characterized as a problem of authority the article explores the various different ways forms of authority in law and anthropology exist and how they might clash. Because the anthropology concerned was about Aboriginal Customary Law there seemed to be a double problem of authority which needed to be resolved in order to ensure that the connections between the disciplines were clear and the inheritance issues could be resolved.


Prue Vines
Professor, Director of First Year Studies, Co-Director, Private Law Research & Policy Group Faculty of Law, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Email: p.vines@unsw.edu.au.

    With more and more information disclosed online and with open-access policies on the rise, legal academic research is becoming more accessible. The potential impact of this development is enormous, particularly in areas or jurisdictions where offline information is scarce and where access to subscription-based journals or books is limited or non-existing. Because the current literature lacks materials that guide researchers who conduct legal research while relying on open access, this article discusses where and how to find and select relevant academic books, journal articles, and working papers in the open access world. The resources, selection tools, and search strategies explained in this article particularly focus on finding open access sources in English. Consequently, this article assists researchers who rely on materials that are freely accessible because they lack access to books and to subscription-based journals outside of their own jurisdiction. The section on search strategy is relevant for researchers who aim to identify sources in an effective and efficient way.


Gijs van Dijck
Tilburg University. The author thanks Lukas Dziedzic, Marie-Claire Menting, Zihan Niu, Marnix Snel, Eric Tjong Tjin Tai and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on a previous version of this article.Parts of section 2 and section 3 can also be found in Gijs van Dijck, ‘Eerste hulp bij juridisch bronnenonderzoek: waar te zoeken en hoe relevante bronnen te selecteren op het internet?’ (2015) Surinaams Juristenblad 29 (in Dutch). For a general overview of research strategies, see https://olinuris.library.cornell.edu/content/skill-guides (last accessed 26 April 2016).

    Legal novices are generally not very well educated in the do’s and don’ts of empirical legal research. This article lays out the general principles and discusses the most important stumbling blocks on the way forward. The presentation starts at the formulation of a research question. Next, the methodology of descriptive research (operationalization and measurement, sampling and selection bias) is briefly addressed. The main part of the article discusses the methodology of explanatory research (causal inference, experimental and quasi-experimental research designs, statistical significance, effect size). Medical malpractice law is used as a central source of illustration.


Ben C.J. van Velthoven
Associate professor of Law and Economics at Leiden Law School. I wish to thank Nienke van der Linden, Ali Mohammad and Charlotte Vrendenbargh from Leiden Law School and two anonymous reviewers and the editors of this journal for helpful comments on earlier drafts.
Artikel

Access_open On Experiments in Empirical Legal Research

Journal Law and Method, March 2016
Authors Prof. dr. Kees van den Bos and Mr. Liesbeth Hulst B.Sc., M.Sc.
Abstract

    The current paper presents some observations on experiments in empirical legal research. The paper notes some strengths and weakness of the experimental method. The paper distinguishes between experiments run in controlled laboratory settings and experiments conducted in field settings and notes the different goals the different types of experiments generally have. The paper identifies important stumbling blocks that legal researchers who are new to setting up experiments may face and proposes that focusing the research in a constructive and independent way is important to overcome these problems. The necessity of running multiple studies to overcome other problems are discussed as well. When conducted in this way, experiments may serve an important role in the field of empirical legal studies and may help to further explore the exciting issues of law, society, and human behavior.


Prof. dr. Kees van den Bos

Mr. Liesbeth Hulst B.Sc., M.Sc.

    In this paper, an attempt is made to work out a methodology for comparative legal research, which goes beyond the ‘functional method’ or methodological scepticism.
    The starting point is the idea that we need a ‘toolbox’, not a fixed methodological road map, and that a lot of published, but largely unnoticed, research outside rule and case oriented comparative law offers varying approaches, which could usefully be applied in comparative research. Six methods have been identified: the functional method, the structural one, the analytical one, the law-in-context method, the historical method, and the common core method. Basically, it is the aim of the research and the research question that will determine which methods could be useful. Moreover, different methods may be combined, as they are complementary and not mutually exclusive.This paper focuses on scholarly comparative legal research, not on the use of foreign law by legislators or courts, but, of course, the methodological questions and answers will largely overlap.


Mark Van Hoecke
Professor of Comparative Law at Queen Mary University of London, and Professor of Legal Theory and Comparative Law at Ghent University

    Central to this contribution is the question whether Dworkin’s theory of constructive interpretation as a method of applying law for the judge, can be used as a method of legal-dogmatic research. Constructive interpretation is a method of legal interpretation that aims to find a normative unity in the diversity of rules that characterize a legal system. In order to find an answer to this question, the key elements of Dworkin’s theory are explained and applied to the author’s PhD research. Methodological difficulties that could give rise to problems when applying Dworkin’s theory, are investigated. In the end, the author concludes that since the judge and the scholar use quite the same methods when interpreting law, the principles of constructivism should fit legal research well, even though some aspects of Dworkin’s theory are difficult to operationalize in practice. As a leading notion however, constructivism constitutes a workable method of legal research.


Francisca Christina Wilhelmina de Graaf LL.M
Fanny de Graaf is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Law, VU University.

    This paper raises two methodological questions from a philosophical perspective: (i) what is involved in a functionalist approach to law and (ii) what should be the focus of such an approach? To answer these questions, I will take two steps with both. To begin with, I argue that Pettit’s view on functionalist approaches may be made relevant for law; functionalist accounts target a virtual mechanism that explains why a system will be resilient under changes in either the system or its environment. Secondly, I make a distinction between two interpretations of his key-concept ‘resilience’, one in mechanical, the other in teleological terms. With regard to the second question I will take two steps as well. I argue why it does not make sense to ascribe wide functions to law, followed by a plea for a limited view on the function of law. This limited view is based on a teleological understanding of the law’s resilience. I argue that these two modes are interrelated in ways that are relevant for the interdisciplinary study of law.


Bert van Roermund

    This article shows that the debate about the possibility and desirability of a rigid distinction between discovery and justification is being muddled because of differences and ambiguities in the way that different writers use the terms ‘discovery,’ ‘justification,’ and related terms. The article argues that merely distinguishing between ‘discovery’ and ‘justification’ is not precise enough, and that we should make a distinction between different elements within each of these contexts. I propose a six-fold classification, through which we can identify reasons, acts, and processes that play a role both in the context of discovery and in the context of justification. This six-fold classification enables us to move forward from debating whether discovery and justification can be rigidly separated, towards articulating how each element (reasons, acts, and processes) has a role to play in each of the contexts (discovery and justification), and how these elements and contexts are related.


Luiz Silveira
Artikel

Access_open Source-usage within doctrinal legal inquiry: choices, problems, and challenges

Journal Law and Method, June 2014
Keywords methodological challenges, doctrinal legal inquiry, source-usage, methodology, method
Authors Mr. Marnix Vincent Roderick Snel LLM, MA
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article provides an overview of the methodological challenges that scholars are confronted with in relation to use of legislation, case law and literature commentaries within doctrinal legal inquiry. Therefore it employs a systematic literature review and a supplementary explorative expert-consultation among legal scholars of Tilburg University. Although the scope of the research is still limited, it shows that doctrinal legal inquiry is subjected to more and other methodological challenges surrounding the source-usage than one might expect. This insight may contribute to the further development of the meta-discipline ’law and methodology’ and simultaneously allows for more methodological awareness among doctrinal legal scholars.


Mr. Marnix Vincent Roderick Snel LLM, MA
Marnix Snel is a PhD researcher at the Research Group ‘Methodology of law and legal scholarship’ at Tilburg University. I thank prof. Rob van Gestel, prof. Jan Vranken and Dr. Arie-Jan Kwak for their comments on earlier draft version of this article.
Artikel

Access_open Legal Dogmatics and Academic Education

Journal Law and Method, 2013
Keywords legal dogmatics, theory design, academic education, empirical cycle
Authors Jan Struiksma
AbstractAuthor's information

    Previously a model was developed whereby the evolution of dogmatic legal theory design can be made more explicit. This concerns, amongst other aspects, the application of the empirical cycle constructed by De Groot, which forms the final element of an evolution of the application of mundane knowledge to theory design. The starting point of this article is that this evolution must be ‘repeated’ during an academic study in empirical subjects. The objective is to investigate how this is done in the legal dogmatic education.


Jan Struiksma
Jan Struiksma is professor of administrative law at the Faculty of Law, Free University Amsterdam.
Artikel

Access_open Skeptical Legal Education

How to Develop a Critical Attitude?

Journal Law and Method, 2013
Keywords academic learning, skepticism, Oakeshott, judgment, Critique
Authors Bart van Klink and Bald de Vries
AbstractAuthor's information

    Law teachers at the university want students to develop a critical attitude. But what exactly does it mean to be critical and why is it important to be critical? How can a critical attitude be promoted? In this article we intend to elucidate the role that critical thinking may play in legal education. We will introduce the idea of skeptical legal education, which is to a large extent based on Michael Oakeshott’s understanding of liberal learning but which relativizes its insistence on the non-instrumentality of learning and reinforces its critical potential. Subsequently, the article presents a teaching experiment, where students, based on self-organization, study and discuss basic texts in order to encourage critical thinking.


Bart van Klink
Bart van Klink is professor of Legal Methodology at VU University Amsterdam and head of the Department of Legal Theory and Legal History at VU University Amsterdam.

Bald de Vries
Ulbaldus de Vries is lecturer of Legal Theory at the Department of administrative and constitutional law and jurisprudence at the Faculty of law, Utrecht University. He is a founding-member of the Working Group on Reflexive Modernisation and Law.
Artikel

Access_open Empirical Facts: A Rationale for Expanding Lawyers’ Methodological Expertise

Journal Law and Method, 2013
Keywords empirical facts, research methods, legal education, social facts
Authors Terry Hutchinson
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article examines the importance of the social evidence base in relation to the development of the law. It argues that there is a need for those lawyers who play a part in law reform (legislators and those involved in the law reform process) and for those who play a part in formulating policy-based common law rules (judges and practitioners) to know more about how facts are established in the social sciences. It argues that lawyers need sufficient knowledge and skills in order to be able to critically assess the facts and evidence base when examining new legislation and also when preparing, arguing and determining the outcomes of legal disputes. For this reason the article argues that lawyers need enhanced training in empirical methodologies in order to function effectively in modern legal contexts.


Terry Hutchinson
Terry Hutchinson is Associate Professor, Law School at QUT Faculty of Law.
Artikel

Access_open Alternative Methodologies: Learning Critique as a Skill

Journal Law and Method, 2013
Keywords governmentality, methodology, method, skill
Authors Bal Sokhi-Bulley
AbstractAuthor's information

    How can we teach critical legal education? The article tackles this key question by focusing on the role of methodology in legal education and research. I argue that critical legal education requires marketing methodology as a ‘skill’, thereby freeing it from what students and researchers in Law often view as the negative connotations of ‘theory’. This skill requires exploring ‘alternative methodologies’ – those critical perspectives that depart from legal positivism and which Law traditionally regards as ‘peripheral’. As an example, the article explores the Foucauldian concept of governmentality as a useful methodological tool. The article also discusses the difference between theory, methodology and method, and reviews current academic contributions on law and method(ology). Ultimately, it suggests a need for a ‘revolt of conduct’ in legal education. Perhaps then we might hope for students that are not docile and disengaged (despite being successful lawyers) but, rather, able to nurture an attitude that allows for ‘thinking’ (law) critically.


Bal Sokhi-Bulley
Bal Sokhi-Bulley is Lecturer in Law atQueen’s University in Belfast.
Artikel

Access_open ‘I’d like to learn what hegemony means’

Teaching International Law from a Critical Angle

Journal Law and Method, 2013
Keywords Bildung, cultural hegemony, international law, teaching
Authors Christine E.J. Schwöbel-Patel
AbstractAuthor's information

    This contribution explores the possibility of teaching international law in a critical fashion. I examine whether the training which is taking place at law schools is establishing and sustaining a cultural hegemony (a term borrowed from Antonio Gramsci). I ask whether the current focus on technical practice-oriented teaching is a condition which should be questioned, even disrupted? In my thoughts on reorientations of this culture, a central term is the German word Bildung. Bildung refers to knowledge and education as an end in itself (John Dewey) as well as an organic process (Hegel), and therefore incorporates a wider understanding than the English word ‘education’. In terms of international law, a notion of Bildung allows us to acknowledge the political nature of the discipline; it may even allow us to ‘politicize’ our students.


Christine E.J. Schwöbel-Patel
Christine E.J. Schwöbel-Patel is Lecturer in Law at University of Liverpool.
Artikel

Access_open The Role of Hierarchy, Example, and Language in Learning

A Confrontation between a Liberal and a ‘Critical’ Understanding of Legal Education

Journal Law and Method, 2013
Keywords skeptical legal education, academic learning, Critique, Knowledge, CLS, liberalism, power
Authors Bart van Klink
AbstractAuthor's information

    In The Voice of Liberal Learning, Michael Oakeshott characterizes learning as a strictly non-instrumental activity. In schools and universities, knowledge is acquired for its own sake. Obviously, this liberal understanding of education differs fundamentally from a ‘critical’ notion of education as advocated by Duncan Kennedy and other members of the CLS movement. From a ‘critical’ perspective, Oakeshott’s conception may be seen as yet another attempt – typical for liberalism and conservatism alike – to depoliticize the process of knowledge production and reproduction and to conceal (and thereby to strengthen and legitimize) its effects on the distribution of power, wealth, status and so forth in society. In this paper, the author will confront both views with each other, especially within the context of legal education. The general purpose is to develop a notion of skeptical legal education, which is to a large extent based on Oakeshott’s understanding of liberal learning but which relativizes its insistence on the non-instrumentality of learning and reinforces its critical potential.


Bart van Klink
Bart van Klink is professor of Legal Methodology at VU University Amsterdam and head of the Department of Legal Theory and Legal History at VU University Amsterdam.
Artikel

Access_open Kuhn and Legal Research

A Reflexive Paradigmatic View on Legal Research

Journal Law and Method, 2013
Keywords legal paradigm, scientific revolution, social theory, reflexivity, responsibility, risk society, cosmopolitanism
Authors Ubaldus de Vries
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article seeks to describe a paradigmatic view on legal research, based on the thought processes underlining Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in particular as how revolutionary change is coming about through a reflexive attitude towards developments that do not fit in the prevailing assumptions in an existing paradigm or research methodology. It allows for a description of ‘normal legal research’ and the assumptions upon which normal legal research is based. It also allows for an explanation as to how these assumptions are no longer exclusively valid but carry with them limitations in the face of structural developments at the level of society. An important feature of the paradigmatic view, then, is that it is able to take issue with these developments by incorporating social theory in our understanding of law.


Ubaldus de Vries
Ulbaldus de Vries is lecturer of Legal Theory at the Department of administrative and constitutional law and jurisprudence at the Faculty of law, Utrecht University. He is a founding-member of the Working Group on Reflexive Modernisation and Law.
Artikel

Access_open Relational Jurisprudence

Vulnerability between Fact and Value

Journal Law and Method, 2012
Keywords fact/value separation, vulnerability, relational jurisprudence, empirical methodology, normative methodology
Authors Maksymilian Del Mar
AbstractAuthor's information

    Relational jurisprudence is an approach to law that situates it in five relational contexts: (1) relations between individuals; (2) relations between individuals and communities; (3) relations between communities; (4) relations between individuals or communities on the one hand, and institutions on the other; and (5) relations between institutions. Thus, part of what makes relational jurisprudence distinctive is its object: the study of law in the context of certain relations, including investigating what factors affect and influence the quality of those relations. Relational jurisprudence is also distinctive, however, in its method. One of its methodological commitments is to avoid the dichotomy, without losing the benefits of a distinction, between facts and values. In trying to avoid this dichotomy, the approach identifies and uses devices that have both factual and evaluative dimensions, called here ‘factual-evaluative complexes’. These devices are then used to investigate the quality of different relations. One such device is ‘vulnerability’. The argument of this paper is that at least some of law can be profitably understood as managing vulnerability, i.e. recognising some vulnerabilities as worthy of protection and others not, or balancing the protection of different vulnerabilities in different relational contexts. Avoiding the dichotomy while retaining the usefulness of the distinction between facts and values in the above-outlined way means that we ought to employ a mix of empirical and normative methodology in the study of law.


Maksymilian Del Mar
Maksymilian Del Mar is lecturer in Legal and Social Philosophy, Department of Law, Queen Mary University of London.
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