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Introduction to Methods in Empirical Legal Studies

Course Level

intermediate - advanced / 3rd - 4th year

Course Language


Course Classification

This is not a Themis course. However, it can still be taken by Themis students under the general course-selection rule that one of the courses can be chosen from the general course offer outside the Themis course program.

Course Type
online course in the summer term 2021, no classroom teaching
Contact Hours
2 hrs per week Students will have to be online during the regular class hours. Please check the course hours through the link provided under the headline "Time Schedule and Course Venue" (below).


5 (if course has been attended regularly and exam has been passed)


This course will be taught for the first time in the summer term 2021.

Time Schedule and Course Venue

An up-to-date electronic course catalogue will be available for the winter semester from late August to late February and for the summer semester from late February to mid August on the website http://www.fu-berlin.de/vv. Please select "Fachbereiche" - "Rechtswissenschaft" - "Staatsexamensstudiengang" and "Fremdsprachiges rechtswissenschaftliches Lehrangebot" in order to find out course hours and rooms.

Course Description

Empirical Legal Studies uses data to inform legal and policy debates. Traditional empirical legal scholarship uses techniques (typical of economics, psychology, and sociology) to examine the causal effects of various policies or legal decisions. More recently, advancements in technology have given rise to a new strand of research that uses tools such as machine learning and natural language processing to study legally relevant, text-based datasets at a large scale. To date quantitative methods still lead a quite shadowy existence in legal discourse, legal scholarship, and legal eduction. Yet, we live in a data-driven world. In the social context where the law lives data and data literacy have become indispensable. Therefore, also lawyers better develop skills for reasoning about and with data.

This traditionally timid treatment of data will be challenged in this course. We will illustrate how legal discourse can profit from quantitative elements. We will also intuitively introduce common methods of empirical research and, by doing so, convey data awareness and data literacy, which may become invaluable in legal practice and the collaboration with specialists from other disciplines. For discussion, we will use examples from a broad spectrum of the law.

Note: This is not a hands-on course. There is no requirement to code, program, or calculate yourselves (although that would be great).

Restricted Enrollment

no (that means that everyone who signs up for this course in time can take part in this course)

Course Registration

via Campus Management

Please sign up for this course under the module "Study Program for Exchange Students - Module 14".

registration period: 1 - 30 April 2021

De-Registration from this Course

via Campus Management

regular drop period: 1 - 30 April 2021

After the regular drop period you can only drop this course with a valid cause until 14 days prior to the exam. Please contact the International Office at the Law Department if you have to use this option.

Type of Exam

will be announced in class

Exam Period

will be announced in class

Registration for the Exam

International exchange students will automatically be registered for the exam when they sign up for this course.

De-Registration from the Exam

Students who drop this course via Campus Management are automatically de-registered from the exam. Students who do not drop this course via Campus Management and do not take part any longer, are going to finish this course with a non-passing grade (0 points).

Grade Release

via Campus Management