Event: Empirical Contributions to Doctrinal Research

Call for Abstracts

Law and legal scholarship have a problem digesting the sheer volume of decisions reached every year by domestic and international judicial bodies. From April to June 2022 alone, Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) recorded 87,000 receipts and disposed of 66,000 cases, with an outstanding caseload of 637,000. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issues tens of thousands of decisions annually and at the end of 2021 had a backlog of approximately 70,000 pending applications.

While there is a general awareness of the massive number of potentially relevant decisions on any legal question, lawyers all too often turn towards a legal fiction embodied in the idea of ‘landmark’ (‘controlling’ or ‘leading’) cases. The legal fiction lies in assuming that that these are the most important cases, perhaps the only ones that need to be seriously considered to understand the relevant law. Given their status and influence, surprisingly little attention is paid to why certain cases, and not others, attain the status of ‘landmarks’. Assumptions about relevant criteria and metrics are rarely made explicit and doctrinal methods have remained largely unchanged since the introduction of systematic reporting of court decisions.

The Workshop will bring together legal academics from across Cambridge and beyond, and cover a broad range of topics arranged around 4 key themes:

(1) Doctrinal Research in the Age of Databases: Structure, Strengths, and Weaknesses
(2) Landmark Cases – a (functional) coping mechanism? Definition, Downsides, Quality Control
(3) Practical Data Analysis of Court Decisions: Sources, Methods, Promises, and Limitations
(4) Implications of Data Analysis: Legal Theory, Education, Research, Practice

Format: The format is a one-day, in person workshop on Tuesday, 28 March 2023 at Sidney Sussex College in the heart of Cambridge: includes a sandwich lunch, tea/coffee throughout the day and a formal dinner for all participants. In order to enable a focused and detailed discussion, the number of participants is capped to 20 individuals.

Submission: To register your interest, please email an abstract (no more than 500 words) to Dr Stefan Theil (st608@cam.ac.uk) by 6 February 2023 at 12:00 using the subject line ‘Doctrinal Workshop’. Successful individuals will be contacted shortly thereafter and asked to develop their abstract into a between 1,500- and 2,000-word discussion paper by 7 March 2023, which will be circulated ahead of and discussed at the workshop.

The workshop is made possible through grants from the Yorke Fund of the Faculty of Law, the Centre for Public Law (CPL) and Sidney Sussex College. It is generously supported by the Centre for Corporate and Commercial Law (3CL), the Cambridge Family Law Centre (CFL), the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law (CIPIL), the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, the Centre for Private Law (CPL), the Centre for Tax Law (CTL) and the Cambridge Socio-Legal Group.