Dalhousie Law Journal


Philip Slayton


Legal study, new approaches


Most lawyers - be they practitioners, judges, or just plain academics - have a fairly clear idea of what it is they must do when "studying law". Most lawyers, without giving the matter very much thought, concern themselves with interpreting statutes according to well-understood principles, analysing cases using time-honoured notions such as stare decisis, ratio decidendi, and obita dicta, and occasionally (very occasionally, with much trepidation and many disclaimers) venturing a policy suggestion or two. Not many have wanted to do much else, and few have suggested any virtue in trying anything new. But the winds of change appear to be upon us. The last decade or so has seen development of several apparently new approaches to consideration of the law. It is my purpose in this essay to examine two of the better-developed streams of development, in an attempt to fix their value and significance. I refer to jurimetrics' - a term generally taken to refer to the use of electronic (computer) retrieval, quantitative methods, and symbolic logic in the study of law - and to the growing body of jurisprudential writings by philosophers, primarily moral philosophers, generally on topics of contemporary political interest, such as civil disobedience, abortion and euthanasia.

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