Using Empirical Methods to Study Legal Writing

20 Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute 141 (2015)

48 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2015

See all articles by Shaun B. Spencer

Shaun B. Spencer

University of Massachusetts School of Law - Dartmouth

Date Written: July 15, 2015

Abstract

The goal of this Article is to promote an emerging field of legal writing scholarship: the empirical study of legal writing. Reading this Article should not make you an expert in qualitative or quantitative research methods. Instead, it should highlight the possibilities for future empirical legal writing scholarship and offer enough of an introduction to inspire new empirical researchers. Even if you do not plan to conduct your own empirical research, this Article should make you a more informed consumer of empirical scholarship.

This Article does not suggest that empirical research is easy. However, with careful attention to methodology, empirical research methods can yield potentially valuable findings. Given the talent and energy among legal writing faculty, we are well positioned to study what lawyers write, and the lawyers who read and write it.

Part I introduces empirical research methods. This part first locates empirical methods within the existing fields of legal writing scholarship and then offers an overview of the three empirical research strategies: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research. Parts II, III, and IV examine how researchers can apply quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research strategies to study legal writing. Each part describes key features of each research method and illustrates those features by describing prior empirical studies of legal writing. Part V offers practical advice to new empirical researchers about potential questions for empirical research, data collection issues, the role of institutional review boards and methodologists, and writing up a study. Finally, the Appendix is a bibliography that presents general references on empirical research methods and lists existing empirical studies of legal writing.

Keywords: Legal writing, empirical research, quantitative methods, qualitative methods, mixed methods

Suggested Citation

Spencer, Shaun B., Using Empirical Methods to Study Legal Writing (July 15, 2015). 20 Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute 141 (2015), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2631543

Shaun B. Spencer (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts School of Law - Dartmouth ( email )

333 Faunce Corner Road
North Dartmouth, MA 02747-1252
United States
508-985-1192 (Phone)

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