Sortuz: Oñati Journal of Emergent Socio-Legal Studies, Vol 6, No 1 (2014)

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The Use of Social Science Information in Law Comment on the British Inquiry Report (2006)

Volkmar Gessner


The British Inquiry report discussed in this brief comment focuses on the “use” of socio-legal studies in relevant policy areas and claims that “the work of empirical legal researchers influences the development of substantive law, the administration of justice, and the practice of law”. This could be wishful thinking. The experience of most socio-legal scholars is that empirical research on law is not or not adequately taken into account by legal science, judges or policy makers. The recommended consequence is to substitute our policy orientation for a theory orientation. It was tempting but largely unsuccessful to offer empirical data for changing the law and for improving legal institutions and legal education. More modest but more rewarding is the adoption of the standard research model practised in most areas of the social sciences: empirical research for the development and the testing of theoretical propositions. We have to change our audiences and address our research to competing empirical approaches and to those theoretical models which tend to be developed without taking the practice of law into account.

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