Empiricism and the Rising Incidence of Coauthorship in Law

The recent growth of empirical scholarship in law, which some have termed “empirical legal studies,” has received much attention. A less-noticed implication of this trend is its potential impact on the manner of scholarly production in legal academia. A common prediction is that academic collaboration rises with scholarly specialization. As the complexity of a field grows, more human capital and more diverse types of human capital are needed to make a contribution. This Article presents two tests of whether empiricism has spurred more coauthorship in law. First, the Article shows that the fraction of articles in the top fifteen law reviews that were empirical or coauthored (or both) trended upwards between 2000 and 2010. The increase in empirical articles accounted for a substantial share of the growth in coauthored articles, and the correlation between coauthorship and empiricism persisted after controlling for numerous other influences. Second, the Article examines the articles published since 1989 in two prominent, faculty-edited journals specializing in law and economics: the Journal of Legal Studies and the Journal of Law, Economics and Organization. Coauthored articles were far more common in these journals than in the general interest, student-edited law reviews—a pattern which itself is consistent with the specialization hypothesis. The share of articles without empirical analysis or formal models in these journals plummeted over this period, while coauthorship rose sharply. These results support the view that specialization, and specifically the growth of empirical scholarship, has contributed to the trend of coauthorship in legal academia.

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