Universiteit Leiden

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Empirical Legal Studies


For Empirical Legal Studies, Leiden has chosen the topic ‘markets, behaviour, and the regulatory role of the law’ to advance empirical legal research.

Law and behavior

Empirical Legal Studies has both a methodological and substantial component. In Leiden, we explore empirical-legal questions that are related to market regulation. Here, markets should be understood broadly to include the European single market,  international trade law, the housing market, the labor market, the circular economy, the traditional market for products and services as well as the platform economy and e-commerce. Markets are impacted by globalisation, climate change, migration and the pandemic. These developments uncover market failure and raise questions about the extent to which market forces are a solution for current problems and what are effective means of regulation.

In order to make regulations in such a way that they can prevent market failure, it is important to properly understand how markets operate in practice and how market actors think, decide and act. There is often a lack of knowledge in these areas. We do not always know which legal rules work, under what circumstances, and why.

Empirical research on law in action provides essential knowledge about the assumptions underlying various legal rules. By answering empirical questions, ELS@Leiden research provides building blocks for answering normative questions regarding market regulation. Our focus is on the interaction between empirical and normative questions.


The Empirical Legal Studies project receives funding from the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) through the multi-year Law Sector Plan. 

Leiden University is one of five faculties nationally that have Empirical Legal Studies as a focus within the context of the Law Sector Plan. At the various faculties, new research groups have been created in which legal scholars and social scientists come together and collaborate interdisciplinarily. With the appointment of young scholars, we witness the rise of a new generation of empirical legal scholars who are the driving force for empirical legal research and education at their respective schools and serve as ambassadors of ELS. 

Leiden University is nationally the coordinator of Empirical Legal Studies as part of the Law Sector Plan.

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