Doctrinal legal method (Black Letterism): assumptions, commitments and shortcomings

Kilcommins, Shane (2016) Doctrinal legal method (Black Letterism): assumptions, commitments and shortcomings.


It has always struck me when asking postgraduate law students to write research proposals in which they should work through the core elements – question, structure, methodology, originality/location in the literature – how challenging they find the process of articulating their methodologies. The issue of methodology is a difficult one for lawyers for a variety of reasons: we are not ordinarily exposed to quantitative and qualitative methods at undergraduate level, and we are often reluctant (initially at least) to push sociological, conceptual or standpoint accounts. Whilst many of these concerns are understandable given the heavy emphasis on conventionalism at undergraduate level (though this is being ameliorated in recent years), it seems clear that these gaps extend to even the most fundamental of methodologies for lawyers – doctrinal legal method. Consider, for example, the following attempts at articulating this methodology:

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