What is Legal Doctrine? On the Aims and Methods of Legal-Dogmatic Research

Rob van Gestel, Hans-W. Micklitz & Edward L. Rubin (eds.), Rethinking Legal Scholarship: A Transatlantic Dialogue, New York [Cambridge University Press] 2017, pp. 207-228

Maastricht European Private Law Institute Working Paper No. 2015/06

17 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2015 Last revised: 19 Mar 2017

Jan M. Smits

Maastricht University Faculty of Law - Maastricht European Private Law Institute (M-EPLI)

Date Written: September 1, 2015

Abstract

This paper seeks to obtain a better understanding of the aims and methods of doctrinal legal scholarship. It argues that legal doctrine serves the three main goals of description, prescription and justification and makes clear that many methodological choices have to be made in order to pursue these goals. One important finding is that legal doctrine reflects the normative complexity of the law: it offers detailed and sophisticated information about how to deal with conflicting arguments. Stripping the law from this practical knowledge by reducing it to general principles or policies, or by trading it in for economic or empirical analysis, is not helpful. In addition, the doctrinal approach is in many ways the necessary prerequisite for undertaking any other type of analysis of law (such as economic, comparative, empirical or behavioural work). All this contributes to carving out the proper place of legal doctrine in current legal scholarship.

Keywords: Methodology of legal research, Black letter law, Legal system, Comparison Europe-US, Law and…, New Private Law

Suggested Citation

Smits, Jan M., What is Legal Doctrine? On the Aims and Methods of Legal-Dogmatic Research (September 1, 2015). Rob van Gestel, Hans-W. Micklitz & Edward L. Rubin (eds.), Rethinking Legal Scholarship: A Transatlantic Dialogue, New York [Cambridge University Press] 2017, pp. 207-228; Maastricht European Private Law Institute Working Paper No. 2015/06. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2644088 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2644088

Jan M. Smits (Contact Author)

Maastricht University Faculty of Law - Maastricht European Private Law Institute (M-EPLI) ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, NL-6200 MD
Netherlands

HOME PAGE: http://www.jansmits.eu

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