The Importance of and Need for Legal Science

19 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2012 Last revised: 17 Dec 2012

See all articles by John C. Reitz

John C. Reitz

University of Iowa - College of Law

Date Written: November 4, 2012


On the basis of a brief exposition of legal science in the civil law tradition, especially in German law, and a search for its partial functional equivalents in the common law tradition, in Roman law, in the traditional systems of sharia, and in traditional Chinese law, the article argues that the essential core of legal science is (1) an intellectual aspect constituted by a pattern of legal reasoning that attempts to present law as a coherent body of norms that is capable of generating new norms to cover new situations and (2) a sociological aspect provided by the scholars and teachers of law who develop that pattern of legal reasoning, produce a literature critiquing the law on the basis of that pattern of reasoning, and form an academic body that is to a significant degree self-governing and self-selecting. Together the intellectual pattern and the body of scholars make a powerful claim that law is a force that is meaningfully independent from other forces in society, whether political, religious, or moral. While we may not be able to be sure how independent any system of law can be, no legal system that aspires to be an autonomous force to any significant degree can fail to develop either of these fundamental aspects of legal science though neither aspect need be as extreme as they were in German legal science. In particular, it does not appear that the looser standards of coherency in the common law tradition have undermined the legitimacy of law in that tradition, but the experience of all the legal systems surveyed suggests that the role of academic commentary on the law is a particularly important support for the claim of legal autonomy.

Keywords: legal science, law professors, legal autonomy (or independece), German law, legal systems

Suggested Citation

Reitz, John C., The Importance of and Need for Legal Science (November 4, 2012). Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 21, 2012, U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-34, Available at SSRN:

John C. Reitz (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

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