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Advanced Introduction to Legal Research Methods

Ernst Hirsch Ballin

Written by Ernst Hirsch Ballin, this original Advanced Introduction uncovers the foundations of legal research methods, an area of legal scholarship distinctly lacking in standardisation. The author shows how such methods differ along critical, empirical, and fundamental lines, and how our understanding of these is crucial to overcoming crises and restoring trust in the law. Key topics include a consideration of law as a normative language and an examination of the common objects of legal research.
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Critical angles in legal research

Ernst Hirsch Ballin


that emerged in the final decades of the twentieth century and that are worth developing further, partly in connection with new techniques, but also in view of fundamental questions arising about the relationship between mankind and nature. We will start with the discourse theories that focus on law-producing (‘jurisgenerative’) deliberations (Section 2.2). This discourse is necessarily framed in legal grammar – which is obviously, like all grammar, subject to development – and can be analysed using the methods of semiotics (Section 2.3). By bringing together these two mostly unrelated perspectives on legal discourse, endeavours can be made to uncover how power relations express themselves in the language of the law. ‘Deconstruction’ of legal discourse focuses on injustices that may lie beneath the textual surface (Section 2.4). From here, we can turn to the legal grammar as such, which, despite appearing perennial, can on closer inspection be seen rather as resulting from the uncritical reproduction and re-use of the ‘artefacts’ originally produced in Roman law and that, as such, may need to be deconstructed. The powerful person/thing divide is part of this discourse framework that, under the conditions of our times, has become increasingly problematic (Section 2.5).

The syntax of law must recognise the limitations of conceptual unambiguity. Against this backdrop, the use of artificial intelligence methods in law may appear a powerful aid; if applied uncritically, however, they will cast a cloud over otherwise productive ambiguities in legal discourse, or even obstruct reasonableness in adjudication (Section 2.6). Constitutional principles, including...

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