Fashions and Methodology
Rethinking Legal Scholarship: A Transatlantic Interchange, Forthcoming
24 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2015
Date Written: October 20, 2015
I attempt in this chapter to build on prior empirical work where I compared who and what was being published in top law reviews in three different jurisdictions: the United States, Britain, and France.
Part I begins by discussing the key empirical findings of a research project that analyzed a sample of legal publications in the United States, Britain, and France. As discussed, the work proceeded in two phases: first, identifying what “top” journal and “elite” law school might be in each jurisdiction; second, analyzing each article according to author characteristics, legal method employed, and subject matter. Part II then draws implications from this preliminary work, attempting to relate the empirical results to the academic legal culture in each jurisdiction. Put simply, can one try to find meaning in these results?
After having surveyed what is being published in “top” law journals across three different jurisdictions, as well as trying to explore links between these results and legal culture, Part III tries to draw some implications. At least two important points emerge. First, that as legal academics we need to pay more attention to quality and how to measure it. Yet existing quality metrics — journal rankings, peer review, bibliometric citations, and the like — are by themselves at best incomplete and at worst misleading. As such, I argue that quality cannot be understood without the threshold concept of methodology. Entering the dangerous territory of linking methodology with quality becomes all but inevitable if we hope to begin improving the state of legal research. Ironically, what is deeply missing in this literature is a focus on methodology. While it becomes extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to generalize across jurisdictions there remains a central question of what Americans may learn from Europeans when it comes to legal research and vice-versa? Methodology can begin to provide a framework to address this question.
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