Using Theory to Study Law: A Company Law Perspective

Posted: 3 May 1999

See all articles by Brian R. Cheffins

Brian R. Cheffins

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)


In the United States, theorising about law has flourished. There has been an increase in the "market share" of theoretically oriented articles in leading law reviews, a proliferation of specialised journals devoted to interdisciplinary approaches to law and much more frequent citation of theoretical scholarship in legal literature. The interdisciplinary movement in legal thought has prompted a strong backlash. Fears have been expressed that "impractical" scholars are doing the legal profession and law students a disservice by pursuing "abstract" theory at the expense of engaging in analysis of legal doctrine. Interdisciplinary scholarship is growing in prominence in Britain. If this trend continues, the experience in the United States suggests that concerns could arise about the practical value of academic law, both inside and outside the classroom. As a result, this is a suitable occasion to assess whether theoretical analysis can make a valuable contribution both with respect to research and teaching. This essay advances the thesis that thinking about law in interdisciplinary terms has a beneficial influence on academic writing and should lead to improvements in the classroom. The case in favour of the use of theory is set out in general terms and is then illustrated by considering a field often thought to be primarily technical and "vocational" in nature, namely company law.

Suggested Citation

Cheffins, Brian R., Using Theory to Study Law: A Company Law Perspective. Cambridge Law Journal, 1999. Available at SSRN:

Brian R. Cheffins (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law ( email )

10 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DZ
United Kingdom
+44 1223 330084 (Phone)
+44 1223 330055 (Fax)

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

B-1050 Brussels

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