Elgar editor Stephen Harries contacted me in May 2019 with the idea that I might write a short book for Elgar’s Advanced Introductions series on empirical legal research. His timing was propitious because I was expecting to finish the project I was working on by the end of 2019 and had not settled on what my next project would be. Having coedited the Oxford Handbook of Empirical Legal Research with Peter Cane about a decade earlier, it seemed like a good time to revisit some of the materials that had been included in the Handbook.
I began my engagement with empirical social science research in my second year of college in 1966. My involvement specifically with what is now labeled empirical legal research (ELR) began in graduate school in the early 1970s and became increasingly central to my intellectual agenda over the decade after graduate school, particularly after 1977 when I joined the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where there was, and is, a strong tradition of empirically oriented research related to law across several disciplines.
For the first ten years my ELR projects were exclusively quantitative in nature, involving surveys, experiments, observation, and coding of various kinds of records or documents. In the 1980s I began to employ qualitative methods. Some studies were exclusively qualitative. The first such study employed interviews in Toronto to examine the relationship between corporate lawyers and their corporate clients (Kritzer 1984a); a later study combined...
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