What Empirical Legal Scholars Do Best

17 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2015 Last revised: 21 May 2015

See all articles by Robert M. Lawless

Robert M. Lawless

University of Illinois College of Law

Date Written: March 23, 2015


This Essay, prepared for the symposium honoring the work of Professor Bill Whitford, makes the claim that empirical legal scholars have strengths as compared to scholars from other disciplines who also do socio-legal scholarship. Most significantly, empirical legal scholars have an in-depth knowledge of fine-grained institutional detail that can unlock knowledge that otherwise might remain hidden – Whitford’s work provides several examples. Empirical legal scholars also will tend to write about the legal system as such, helping us understand how the legal system works. Empirical legal scholars identify topics others might miss and often write scholarship that connects with policy makers. The claim here is not that empirical legal scholars are somehow “better” – indeed empirical legal scholars also have weaknesses. Rather, the claim is only that empirical legal scholars produce scholarship that is different, scholarship that expands our knowledge of how the world works, and hence scholarship that is useful.

Keywords: empirical legal studies, bankruptcy

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Lawless, Robert M., What Empirical Legal Scholars Do Best (March 23, 2015). University of Illinois College of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-21. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2584177 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2584177

Robert M. Lawless (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

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