ARM New Contribution Article



As law schools and their students integrate with the global realm of both law and non-law research postgraduate (RPG) scholarship, and as RPG scholars in other disciplines, schools, and departments increasingly incorporate legal studies in their research projects, they encounter the demands, norms, and expectations of that global realm. Among these is the requirement that the RPG candidate make a “new contribution to knowledge” by identifying and filling an important “gap” in the existing scholarship. This is variously referred to as “adding value,” being “innovative,” and as being “original” and “novel,” and this requirement applies whether the researcher works in traditional black-letter law or in one of the many other methods of legal research. While these ideas are understood, defined, and well-settled in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences, they are problematic in legal studies. This is so because what traditional law schools and lawyers call “legal research” may not be recognized as research at all by other disciplines within the university. The law school is a creature of both the university and the legal profession, and it must serve both and work with both even though those two roles may sometimes conflict. It is a fluid and constantly evolving situation. If the work of law RPG students, and of their counterparts in other disciplines, is to achieve global recognition beyond the local law school, they must cultivate full-bodied “legal scholarship” in contradistinction or addition to traditional “legal research,” with distinct understandings of what counts objectively as “new,” as a “contribution,” and as “knowledge,”—and to whom and why they count globally. This requires them to identify their “core competence” as RPG researchers in a world where education is increasingly commodified as a business model. Only by doing this will their research product “pass without objection in the trade.”