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Contribution to Book
What is Legal Doctrine? On the Aims and Methods of Legal-Dogmatic Research
Rethinking Legal Scholarship: A Transatlantic Dialogue (2017)
  • Jan M Smits, Maastricht University
This paper seeks to obtain a better understanding of the aims and methods of doctrinal legal scholarship. It argues that legal doctrine serves the three main goals of description, prescription and justification and makes clear that many methodological choices have to be made in order to pursue these goals. One important finding is that legal doctrine reflects the normative complexity of the law: it offers detailed and sophisticated information about how to deal with conflicting arguments. Stripping the law from this practical knowledge by reducing it to general principles or policies, or by trading it in for economic or empirical analysis, is not helpful. In addition, the doctrinal approach is in many ways the necessary prerequisite for undertaking any other type of analysis of law (such as economic, comparative, empirical or behavioural work). All this contributes to carving out the proper place of legal doctrine in current legal scholarship.
  • Methodology of legal research,
  • Black letter law,
  • Legal system,
  • Comparison Europe-US,
  • Law and…,
  • New Private Law
Publication Date
Rob van Gestel, Hans-W. Micklitz & Edward L. Rubin
Cambridge University Press
Citation Information
Jan M Smits. "What is Legal Doctrine? On the Aims and Methods of Legal-Dogmatic Research" New YorkRethinking Legal Scholarship: A Transatlantic Dialogue (2017) p. 207 - 228
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