We consider this project above all as a form of sociology of law; We want to know more about how lawyers see the field of law and what they think about some of the big issues in the field. Previous work in other fields has shown that academics can often have inaccurate sociological beliefs about the distribution of their peers` views (see Bourget & Chalmers, 2014), and answering these sociological questions can be interesting and beneficial not only for future jurists and legal historians, but also for today`s jurists. The survey consists of two parts, each composed of questions: (i) the centrality of the different areas of law within the Academy of Law and (ii) specific questions of law and legal theory, which together aim to provide sociological, psychological and jurisprudential information to achieve the above objectives. This project is a survey of members of the Law Academy. The survey collects members` views on (i) their perception of the “centrality” of the different areas of law within the Law Academy and (ii) their views on legal theoretical issues. Here we describe why we decided to conduct the survey, what types of questions and problems to include, and how to formulate the question and answer options for each part of the survey. Third, given that both lists are well known and respected in case law, we hope that the use of these lists will be considered a reasonable choice by the jurisprudence-academic community. We would be happy if similar studies were conducted in other languages and/or countries. The current version is adapted to the United States in terms of subject category labels and legal theoretical topics. We are happy to share our papers and discuss our experiences in planning and preparing the study.
Finally, the public might be curious to know more about what legal theory experts think about the nature of the legal system around them and influences them on a daily basis. Thus, a theoretical legal inquiry can provide information that is of interest and benefit to a variety of target groups both within and outside the law. There is also a psychological aspect of the project. The study aims to uncover evidence explaining why the legal community understands the field and issues in a particular way. Although we believe that this psychological aspect is interesting and informative in itself, it can also influence a jurisprudential aspect of the project. Theoretical legal issues should certainly not be settled by appointment to what 51% of law professors say they accept. Nevertheless, some theorists might choose a broad consensus of experts in favor of a point of view to give some weight in favor of that point of view. As for the future of the study, we hope to conduct further rounds (e.g. every 5 or 10 years) to learn more about the changing trends at the Law Academy. With regard to the legal-theoretical part of the survey, we have created an initial list of possible questions and answers, focusing on the breadth and diversity of the topics covered.
The list was distributed to various U.S. law professors, and we received and incorporated feedback from about 20 law professors, resulting in a final series of 25 questions. In designing the survey, we did our best to consider issues of interest and represented a variety of perspectives within legal theory. One of the motivations for this study is related to the mismatch between the scope of legal theoretical science and the lack of documented academic consensus resulting from this scholarship. Academics have long debated natural law against positivism, realism versus formalism, originalism versus living constitutionalism, and many other theories. But there is no systematic account of the propensity of the legal community to support or reject these views. By asking lawyers about their beliefs on the most frequently discussed issues, we hope to resolve this disparity. Overall, we are interested in learning more about the Law Academy: which areas of law are considered the most important and which legal theories advocate (or reject members of the Academy)? Housing, food, employment (adults and youth), clothing, literacy and more! Despite our best efforts, we recognize that the investigation is by no means perfect. The topics covered do not fully reflect all important perspectives and questions, especially those that cannot be briefly and succinctly captured by short labels (see the justification for the question and the format of the answer below). To the extent that the investigation is actually biased against certain topics or viewpoints, we hope to address this in future iterations of the survey and, in the meantime, encourage other theorists (with much greater expertise in these areas) to turn to us with advice and feedback.
In our own approach, we decided to divide centrality into a normative and descriptive component in order to avoid any possible confusion among respondents. We also decided to use a 0-10 point scale rather than a 1-7 point scale to possibly measure more subtle differences in average scores between ranges and because 11-point scales are generally perceived as better by survey participants so that they can express their feelings appropriately (Preston and Colman, 2000). Nevertheless, there are many other important areas that are not reflected in the smaller (Jotwell) or larger (AALS) list. The survey invites participants to include written comments, including suggestions for areas to include in future iterations of the survey. As for the central part, we were looking for an objective “smaller” and “larger” list of different areas of law. We relied on (a) the 18 areas reflected in Jotwell: jotwell.com/, and (b) the 107 areas listed by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) in its FAR recruitment materials. We have combined these lists to eliminate some redundant areas. Each participant is invited for the 18 “smaller” list boxes and a random subset of 7 from the “larger” list.
Each participant can also choose to evaluate an additional area (for example, if they wish to evaluate an area of the larger list that was not among the 7 randomly submitted). (5) Miscellaneous (with different options, such as “no facts”) There are certain areas that are over- or under-represented in the survey. Some areas of law were not so well suited to questions with a sufficiently small list of the most common answers. For example, we solicited feedback on several ownership issues, but in the end, none were positively evaluated by the group we asked for feedback from. The 25 questions deal with a relatively larger number of criminal law issues that tended to be more understandable to those who were not specialists in the field. The study is led by Kevin Tobia (Georgetown Law) and Eric Martinez (MIT Cognitive Science). We hope to publish the results of the study within two years (by summer 2023). The study was approved by Georgetown University`s BRI. The study has been pre-registered on Open Science, and these documents will be available no later than the time of publication.
Please direct any questions, comments or concerns to Professor Kevin Tobia. As far as the format of the questions is concerned, we have relied heavily on similar work that has pioneered philosophy. For the second part, we follow Turri (2016), with some variations. Turri`s survey (2016) asked participants to rate their approval on a scale of 1 to 7 with the statement: “This field is central to the discipline of philosophy” compared to 10 different areas of philosophy. For the third part, we follow Bourget & Chalmers (2014), who pioneered a similar study in philosophy.