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Empirical Legal Studies


Our lab members teach several courses that relate to ELS and have also published work about the role of ELS in legal education.


Last semester, lab member Niek Strohmaier coordinated the Honours College Law course ‘Onderzoek naar recht in de samenleving’. In this course, he inspired Honours students about ELS by sharing methods and possibilities in doing empirical-legal research. He invited several ELS lab members to give guest lectures to share their knowledge and experiences in doing empirical-legal research. You can read more about it here.

This semester, lab member Niek Strohmaier coordinates the Honours College Law course 'Psychology for Lawyers'. The goal of this course is to familiarize students with the body of knowledge available in psychological science that is relevant for lawyers and could greatly benefit them, in particular in relation to judgment and decision making. To this end, students will first be introduced to the foundations of the unconscious brain and the many processes relevant for judgment and decision making that operate outside of conscious awareness. Next, students will be introduced to the notion of heuristics, biases, and ‘noise’. Once this foundation has been laid, we will apply this knowledge to legal issues. For example, how might biases and personally held beliefs affect how the reasonable person standard is applied? How do lawyers and judges draw causal inferences and how might psychological factors affect such inferences? Why is it so difficult to assess the foreseeability of damage in hindsight? Could it be that foreseeability is sometimes assumed where a certain damage was in fact not foreseeable at all? And how do moral judgments, for example about a person’s character, affect how we make sense of a case? Could it be that negative perceptions about an individual affect legally relevant judgments concerning for example causation, foreseeability, and punishment?

During this course students will read the latest scientific papers and will thus be up-to-date with the state of the art science in this area. The context of this course is not limited to criminal law and will extend to matters related to any field of law. After this course, students will recognize the discussed psychological processes in legal practice and be able to identify them, discuss them, and hopefully prevent themselves and others from falling prey to them. All in all, the students should become better, more well-rounded lawyers as a result of this course. Read more about the course here.

The masters program Company Law offers the course 'ILS: Company and Insolvency Law.' Jessie Pool is the head teacher of the course. The aim of the course is to teach students the principles of conducting scientific legal research in the field of company and insolvency law. The focus of the course is on developing a feasible research plan, in which students learn which research method is suitable for which research question. In addition to dogmatic and comparative research methods, the course places emphasis on empirical research methods and more specific, the difference between qualitative and quantitative research methods. In addition, the assessment of empirical results is discussed, which allows students to better understand and assess empirical research.

See also: https://studiegids.universiteitleiden.nl/courses/99286/ils-ondernemings-en-insolventierecht

Education - activities

1 October 2021, the ELS lab @Leiden organised a conference for students from the LLM's Private Law, Corporate Law and Financial Law. During the conference, students gained insight into the various ways in which empirical research can be useful and necessary for law. 

Read more about the conference here.

Publications about the role of ELS in legal education

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