What Is CRN 28?


Realist and Empirical Methods

A number of new legal realist events have taken place as part of a Collaborative Research Network (CRN) organized under the aegis of the U.S. Law & Society Association. For more information on CRNs, go to http://www.lawandsociety.org/ and click the button on the left labeled “Collaborative Research Networks.”

For many decades, the law-and-society movement has served as a meeting point for scholars interested in empirical research on law. This CRN focuses explicitly on the process of translation between law and social science. Bringing together scholars interested in “realist” and “empirical” approaches to law, we will work to build an integrative set of research methods for sociolegal studies. We begin with several specific foci:

(1) RIGOROUS TRANSLATION OF LAW AND SOCIAL SCIENCE: First, we do not assume that scholars trained in social science and scholars trained in law can instantly understand each other’s fields with any depth. Rather, we ask what conditions are necessary in order to bridge very different disciplinary traditions. This requires systematic attention to the translation process itself, and to the institutional settings within which translation occurs.

(2) INTERDISCIPLINARY METHODS: Second, scholars involved in this CRN work with the full range of available empirical methods – qualitative and quantitative, ethnographic and statistical. Our goal is to encourage a truly interdisciplinary approach, which examines law from the “ground up” as well as the “top down.” Panels sponsored by this CRN at LSA meetings focus largely on research methods, and on translating social science in legal settings (including law school classrooms).

Didactic Panel Format:
This CRN sponsors “Methods Showcase” panels that provide a novel and somewhat didactic approach to methods. The panel format is an effort to address the structural problem of speaking both to methodological novices and to methodological sophisticates (as well as the more numerous semi-sophisticates, pseudo-sophisticates, and sofa-sophisticates). The goal is to intrigue, inspire and spark interdisciplinary dialog, as well as to communicate technical advances within a given research community. This requires the panels to thread a needle: If the sessions become merely didactic, we’ll end up doing a rush-job and interest will flag — especially among would-be presenters. But if the sessions assume too much prior knowledge, they may never get off the ground, given the heterogeneity of methodological expertise among sociolegal scholars. The CRN Showcases have created a new mix of presentation styles to address this challenge.