On the map

When we were both at UEA Law School, Prof. Mathias Siems (blog | web | @siemslegal) and I started working on an article on legal research – seeing it as having affinities with practical, humanities and social science approaches.  We presented it at UEA and Mathias also presented it at a number of other fora. It continued after both of us moved on – Mathias to Durham and me to Edinburgh – and it has now been published in the Cambridge Law Journal.  Complete with charts and diagrams (including a ternary plot we are particularly attached to), and for those who like such things, our data is published in an online annex.  We considered the question from a number of angles, including review of literature (on legal education, methodology and related issues), across different jurisdictions, data (which we collected) on the faculty structures of law schools in the UK, analysis of the role of research councils and associations, and a pilot survey on self-identification of research methods.  When I’ve spoken about it (e.g. at breaks in conferences!), people seem interested, so I hope you enjoy the final result.

That result is the article, Mapping Legal Research (2012) 71 Cambridge Law Journal 651.  A slightly earlier version is available on SSRN (without charge), with the annex included in the file: get it here.  And finally, the abstract:

This article aims to map the position of academic legal research, using a distinction between “law as a practical discipline”, “law as humanities” and “law as social sciences” as a conceptual framework. Having explained this framework, we address both the “macro” and “micro” level of legal research in the UK. For this purpose, we have collected information on the position of all law schools within the structure of their respective universities. We also introduce “ternary plots” as a new way of explaining individual research preferences. Our general result is that all three categories play a role within the context of UK legal academia, though the relationship between the “macro” and the “micro” level is not always straight-forward. We also provide comparisons with the US and Germany and show that in all three countries law as an academic tradition has been constantly evolving, raising questions such as whether the UK could or should move further to a social science model already dominant in the US.

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