Although Oliver Wendell Holmes was touting the merits of empirical research over one hundred years ago, only recently have legal academics created a journal and conference dedicated to empirical legal studies. Interestingly, topics of interest to legal writing professors have been a source for empirical research well before the emergence these specialized journals and conferences. For example, empirical research comparing the use of legal prose to plain English in appellate briefs was taking place over 25 years ago. In 1996, the second volume of The Journal of Legal Writing Institute included an empirical study evaluating which professors’ comments students found the most useful. More recently, the use of laptops in the classroom has become a topic for empirical research by law professors.
Like many legal writing professors, I have found these and other articles with empirical research useful to both my understanding of the doctrine of legal writing and to my teaching of this subject. In engaging in my own empirical research, however, I have discovered that empirical research encompasses more than the statistics espoused by Oliver Wendell Holmes. The legal writing professor of the future should understand that empirical research can be done in a variety of ways and is a viable area for legal scholarship.
The Second Draft
Morath, Sarah J., "It's Not All Statistics: Demystifying Empirical Research" (2013). Akron Law Publications. 157.