Toward a New Legal Empiricism: Empirical Legal Studies and New Legal Realism

Posted: 14 Nov 2010

See all articles by Mark C. Suchman

Mark C. Suchman

Brown University

Elizabeth Mertz

University of Wisconsin - Madison; American Bar Foundation

Date Written: December 2010


The past decade has seen a return of interest in empirical research within the U.S. legal academy, hearkening back to a similar empirical turn during the ascendancy of Legal Realism in the New Deal era. However, the current revival of legal empiricism has emerged against the backdrop of several well-established traditions of empirical sociolegal research in the interdisciplinary law-and-society movement and in the social science disciplines. This article examines two of the most prominent manifestations of the “new” legal empiricism, empirical legal studies (ELS) and new legal realism (NLR), and it situates them within the preexisting sociolegal terrain. The analysis concludes by considering possible futures for empirical research on law.

Suggested Citation

Suchman, Mark C. and Mertz, Elizabeth Ellen, Toward a New Legal Empiricism: Empirical Legal Studies and New Legal Realism (December 2010). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 6, pp. 555-579, 2010; American Bar Foundation Research Paper No. 11-03. Available at SSRN: or

Mark C. Suchman (Contact Author)

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

Elizabeth Ellen Mertz

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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