Go Out and Look: The Challenge and Promise of Empirical Scholarship in Contract Law

14 Pages Posted: 17 May 2006

See all articles by David V. Snyder

David V. Snyder

Washington College of Law, American University


This introduction to the symposium on Empirical Scholarship in Contract Law, sponsored in January 2006 by the Contracts Section of the Association of American Law Schools and published in the Tulane Law Review, pushes for an increased focus on the real world and argues that highly quantitative statistical analyses of published judicial opinions are no more empirical than simple case notes. While this short essay argues for increased rigor in empirical research, it also recognizes the limits of scientific methods for legal analysis and suggests that the seduction of scientific appearances, now as in the days of Langdell's legal science, should be viewed with a mixture of hope and caution. Although it points out the limits of scientific aspiration in the law, the piece also applauds the role of empiricism in the field of contracts, and especially in bringing a more rigorous form of experience to both scholarship and teaching. Finally, the essay introduces the symposium papers: Stephen Choi and Mitu Gulati's study of disclosures in sovereign debt contracts; George Geis's computerized experiment using marketing data to assess the optimal precision of contract default rules; Stewart Macaulay's article on the new legal realism; and Debora Threedy's analysis and exposition of legal archaeology.

Keywords: contracts, empiricism, Legal Realism, legal science

JEL Classification: K12

Suggested Citation

Snyder, David V., Go Out and Look: The Challenge and Promise of Empirical Scholarship in Contract Law. Tulane Law Review, Vol. 80, p. 1009, 2006; Tulane Public Law Research Paper No. 06-06. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=901783

David V. Snyder (Contact Author)

Washington College of Law, American University ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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