Universiteit Leiden

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ELS lab @Leiden

About ELS lab @Leiden

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


Ministry of Education, Culture and Science

Empirical Legal Studies is one of the two legal science themes of the Dutch national sector plan for law, the other being Institutions for Conflict Resolution.

The regulatory role of the law can be seen in economic reality where, ideally, the market ensures that supply and demand converge. Legal reality operates within this economic reality. It can ensure that markets function efficiently and fairly.

Market forces, after all, might lead to unfair outcomes for market actors, society, or the environment. The law aims to nurture trust in the markets, solve shortcomings in information, prevent negative externalities of transactions, and fight excessive market concentration.

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 behavioural assumptions underlying various legal rules. Empirical legal research, including applied economic, psychological and sociological research, not only has added value for the empirical ‘what, when, and how’ questions, but also for the normative ‘and what do we think of this’ questions.

By answering empirical questions, the research in this legal science theme provides building blocks for answering normative questions regarding market regulation. Therefore, the focus is on the interaction between empirical and normative questions.

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