New Legal Realism: Empirical Law and Society



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Seeking to develop a rigorous, genuinely interdisciplinary approach to the empirical study of law.

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Follow our group of New Legal Realists who post on everything from law to the latest in jazz. Visit our blog to refresh your understanding of law-and-society research, empirical perspectives on law, and realism old and new.
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From law on the books to law in action From law on the books to law in action

News and Events

UC Irvine Law Review Symposium Issue: The New Legal Realism at Ten Years

UC Irvine Law Review's latest issue commemorates the tenth anniversary of New Legal Realism and memorializes the NLR Conference that took place at Irvine in 2014. It includes articles by Brian Bix, Stewart Macaulay, Anna Offit, and Riaz Tejani with an Introduction by Bryant Garth and Elizabeth Mertz and an Afterword from Mario L. Barnes. The symposium issue is currently available online.

NLR Working Papers: New Series

We are now accepting submissions for the NLR Working Paper Series 3. To submit a paper, please email us at

The first paper in this series comes from Arpan Banerjee. His article "Copyright Piracy and the Indian Film Industry: A "Realist" Assessment" was published in the Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law Journal in 2016. The author explains:
The paper experiments with NLR in a largely unchartered field (intellectual property) in a largely unchartered country (India). The paper examines the issue of copyright piracy in the Indian film industry, and tries to construct a template for NLR research in the field. The paper examines top-down concerns (from an international relations and business perspective) and bottom-up concerns (from the perspective of artists and consumers). A shorter version of the paper was awarded the ATRIP Prize for young researchers at the 33rd ATRIP Congress (more on ATRIP here and here ). The paper is available here . The author can be contacted at

Another paper included in Series 3 is from Thomas S. Harrison, Fellow and Director of the Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Program and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Queen's Faculty of Law. His dissertation, Between Principle and Practicality: A Dynamic Realist Examination of Independence in the Canadian Justice System , focuses on the principle and practice of independence for lawyers and judges in the justice system as well as highlights the independence of the Bar. This is examined from a new legal realist perspective using a 'dynamic realist' approach.

Three New Volumes Put Forward the New Legal Realism Agenda

Cambridge University Press has released a two-volume series on New Legal Realism. In these volumes, leading scholars, established and new, from a startling array of disciplinary perspectives, chart an exciting new course for interdisciplinary research on law in the new millennium. The series explicate law-on-the-ground, at the same time integrating empirical research with sophisticated theory. The first volume, The New Legal Realism, Volume I: Translating Law-and-Society for Today's Legal Practice, co-edited by Elizabeth Mertz, Stewart Macaulay, and Thomas W. Mitchell, lays the groundwork for this novel and comprehensive approach, with an innovative combination of theoretical, historical, pedagogical, and empirical perspectives. The second volume, The New Legal Realism, Volume II: Studying Law Globally, co-edited by Heinz Klug and Sally Engle Merry, explores a crucial part of the new legal realist project, which is the integration of global perspectives and information into our understanding of law. The authors in this pathbreaking volume use empirical research to shed light on current developments in law at a global level.

The third volume, Translating the Social World for Law (published by Oxford University Press), is edited by Elizabeth Mertz, William K. Ford, and Gregory M. Matoesian. This volume examines the linguistic problems that arise in efforts to translate between law and the social sciences. Law and the social sciences certainly qualify as disciplines with quite distinctive language patterns and practices, as well as different orientations and goals. In coordinated papers that are grounded in empirical research, the volume contributors use careful linguistic analysis to understand how attempts to translate between different disciplines can misfire in systematic ways. Some contributors also point the way toward more fruitful translation practices.


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About NLR

The New Legal Realism Project (NLR) promotes rigorous and genuinely interdisciplinary scholarship on law in action, building from the law-and-society tradition. Law professors and lawyers often turn to social science research for help in resolving legal problems, but they usually do so without much social science training or expertise. On the other hand, social scientists who study legal issues can fail to appreciate the distinctive requirements of law and policy, resulting in failed attempts to apply social science to "real world" problems. NLR focuses on developing better, more sophisticated translations between law and social science. This is especially important as law increasingly turns to social science for guidance in dealing with crucial legal and policy issues. Sloppy or inaccurate interdisciplinary translation on these issues can have serious social effects.

NLR FAQ: How do I join NLR?

Answer: Like the "old" legal realism, the New Legal Realism is open to all who wish to participate. Our conversations take place in journals and books and working papers, at conferences and colloquia freely organized by interested scholars. We welcome news on New Legal Realism projects. Email us at

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