Legal scholarship is one of the oldest academic disciplines, and the study of law has been passed on from generation to generation as an implicit “savoir faire”. It was presumed that all legal scholars understood the methodology of legal research, making its explicit clarification and justification unnecessary. Over the last decade, the lack of an explicit methodological tradition has become problematic due to the growing interdisciplinary collaboration at universities and the increased importance of external funding, often granted by mixed experts panels. It is therefore time for legal scholarship to make its implicit methodology explicit.
This handbook – created on the basis of a PhD project defended at KU Leuven Law Faculty in 2016 – carefully describes the methodology of traditional legal research in four sections:
- First, the different types of research objectives that legal scholars can pursue are clarified.
- Secondly, as each type of research objective calls for its own methodology, their methodological features are discussed individually.
- Thirdly, after looking into each research objective separately, three overall methodological features applicable to all are addressed.
- Fourthly, the theory of the previous parts is transformed into a practical methodological guide. This guide serves as a useful instrument for legal scholars who aim to design or reflect on research projects.
During her years at KU Leuven, Lina Kestemont specialized in legal methodology, first as a researching and teaching fellow at the Law Faculty and afterwards as a postdoc research coordinator at the Canon Law Faculty. In 2016, Lina successfully defended her PhD “Towards a ‘legal’ methodology. An explicit methodological framework for academic legal research in social security law”. In 2017, her PhD thesis was awarded the Walter Leën Prize, offered every three years.