In his comments about the distinct shift toward empirical papers at ALEA (a point echoed by many, including Bill Henderson), PrawfsBlawg's Ethan Leib brushes up against an equally interesting point (here as well): whether legal scholars should recognize empirical methodology as a distinct subfield.
The point warrants careful consideration. Although the main thrust of Leib's comments is to suggest that empirical legal methodologists "get a free pass at needing to have a substantive field of expertise in the law," ironically, Leib's post fails to consider that methodology may constitute its own substantive subfield within law. Methodologists in fields outside of law argue that it should. (E.g., political scientists Gary King (Harvard) and Lee Epstein (Northwestern) wrote in 2002: "The law is important enough to have a subfield devoted to methodological concerns, as does almost every other discipline that conducts empirical research.") Finally, to the extent that legal scholarship continues in its trajectory toward the empirical, it is particularly important that folks with substantive legal backgrounds and expertise contribute to and help shape the development of a subfield devoted to empirical methodology and technique. As King & Epstein also noted: "Scholars toiling in the social, natural, and physical sciences can help, but a whole field [law] cannot count on others with differing goals and perspectives to solve all of the problems that law professors [legal scholars] may face."