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Advanced Introduction to Empirical Legal Research

Herbert M. Kritzer

Herbert Kritzer presents a clear introduction to the history, methods and substance of empirical legal research (ELR). Quantitative methods dominate in empirical legal research, but an important segment of the field draws on qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews and observation. In this book both methodologies are explored alongside systematic data analysis. Offering an overview of the broad ELR literature, the institutions of the law, the central actors of the law, and the subjects of the law are each addressed in this highly readable account that will be essential reading for legal researchers.
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What Is Empirical Legal Research?

Herbert M. Kritzer


There are many reasons that one would want to have accurate information about law, legal institutions, and related behavior of people and organizations. How often do people invoke legal processes to resolve various types of problems? Or, what explains the decisions made by judges? Or, does having a lawyer improve one’s chance of success in a legal proceeding? Or, do business enterprises flourish more in a common law system or in a civil law system? Although one might draw on personal experience or intuition to answer these questions, a better approach is to systematically collect information relevant to answering the question. The latter approach would constitute empirical legal research.

The concept of “empirical legal research” (ELR) is best understood by separating the elements of “empirical” and “legal.” The first term, “empirical,” concerns methodology broadly defined, and here refers to the process of assembling factual information or data. Empirical research, whether it pertains to law or something else, involves the systematic collection of information, ideally in a way that can, at least in theory, be replicated. The defining feature here is that the collection of information is carried out in a systematic way. Often the information collected is in the form of data,1 which may be taken to refer to a set of distinct pieces of information. However, it is not always the case that the systematically collected information is reducible to a set of data in this sense—but that does not mean that the information has...

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