Empiricism and International Law: Insights for Investment Treaty Dispute Resolution

49 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2008 Last revised: 20 May 2009

See all articles by Susan Franck

Susan Franck

American University - Washington College of Law


While scholars in the United States increasingly focus on the empirical dimension of legal scholarship, there have been challenges in using empiricism to explore international legal issues. Rather than relying on logic or instinct alone, empirical methodologies can provide scholars with tools to gain new facts, see existing ideas through a different lens, and engage in a more nuanced analysis of international law phenomena. There appears to be a natural synergy between empiricism and international investment treaty dispute resolution. With calls for trade time outs by U.S. presidential candidates, there is interest in how investment treaties function, whether they achieve their goals, and at what cost. Given the implications for public policy, international relations, and allocation of domestic financial resources, empirical assessment of international investment law is not misplaced. This Essay considers the efficacy of using empirical methodologies to gain insights about the resolution of investment treaty disputes and international investment law. Part I considers the historical tensions between international law and empiricism and moves towards reintegration. Part II explores what form empiricism might take and argues for a broad understanding of empiricism. Part III analyzes how to develop an empirical approach in light of the costs and benefits and proposes five steps to facilitate the creation of an empirical research agenda for international investment treaty dispute resolution. While recognizing that empiricism is not a panacea, the Essay suggests that the benefits of making empiricism part of the methodological landscape of investment treaty dispute resolution scholarship are worth the costs. Empiricism offers a chance to obtain accurate information about investment disputes, correct misperceptions about existing dispute resolution processes, permits considered analysis of legal issues affecting the public, and facilitates informed decisions about the negotiation and revision of investment treaties.

Keywords: Empirical Legal Studies, Law and Society, Investment Treaties, BIT, IIA, NAFTA, Investment Treaty Arbitration, Dispute Resolution, ICSID, OECD, UNCTAD

JEL Classification: B41, C00, E22, F02, F10, F21, H77, H87, K20, K33, O10, O20

Suggested Citation

Franck, Susan, Empiricism and International Law: Insights for Investment Treaty Dispute Resolution. Virginia Journal of International Law, Vol. 48, 2008, Washington & Lee Legal Studies Paper No. 2008-33, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1127052

Susan Franck (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics