Empiricism and the Rising Incidence of Coauthorship in Law

Author: 
Tom Ginsburg
Author: 
Thomas J. Miles

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 and more diverse types of human capital are needed to make a contribution. This paper presents two tests of whether empiricism has spurred more co-authorship in law. First, the paper shows that the fraction of articles in the top fifteen law reviews that were empirical or co-authored (or both) trended upwards between 2000 and 2010. The increase in empirical articles accounted for a substantial share of the growth in co-authored articles, and the correlation between co-authorship and empiricism persisted after controlling for numerous other influences. Second, the paper examines the articles published since 1989 in two prominent, faculty-edited journals specializing in law & economics: the Journal of Legal Studies and the Journal of Law, Economics & Organization. Co-authored 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 co-authorship rose sharply. These results support the view that specialization, and specifically the growth of empirical scholarship, has contributed to the trend of co-authorship in legal academia.