In recent years, interdisciplinary legal scholarship has become more common, and many law schools seem to be placing greater emphasis on recruiting scholars with an interdisciplinary bent. Although I am by no means familiar with many of the "law and [insert field]" areas of scholarship, my own research on the Supreme Court requires familiarity and facility with political science scholarship on judicial decision-making. Although the environment seems to be slowly improving with a greater number of political scientists publishing in legal journals, there still seems to be a disconnect between the work of legal scholars and political scientists, with many in both fields ignoring the scholarship of the other. I have often wondered about the reasons for this phenomenon.
One simple possibility is that political scientists and legal scholars have historically published in journals that are housed in different electronic databases (or in the pre-computer days, different libraries). For instance, most political science journals are not available on WESTLAW or LEXIS, but can be found on such electronic databases as JSTOR and Academic Search Premier. Of course, in law school and private practice, lawyers are taught to rely heavily on WESTLAW and LEXIS, but have little familiarity with the other electronic databases. Thus, a "quick search" on WESTLAW will not reveal "on point" scholarship from other disciplines.
Another possibility is the insularity of each of the disciplines. For many years, the work of legal scholars consisted primarily of doctrinal work and normative recommendations stemming from theoretical (rather than empirical) policy arguments. Political scientists have often viewed the work of legal scholars as insufficiently methodologically rigorous, even when we have ventured into empirical research. To some degree, that might even be true today, although the amount and degree of collaboration between political scientists and legal scholars has vastly improved. Meanwhile, legal scholars have criticized political scientists for failing to see the nuances in the law, and focusing too much attention on institutional and external factors to explain judicial decisions. Legal scholars also criticize political scientists for rigid adherence to models of judical decisionmaking without explaining the outliers in the data or the imperfections of the models.
I am sure that there are other possibilities, and I don't mean this post as a criticism of either discipline, but I do believe that greater collaboration between political scientists and legal scholars will result in more complete explanations of judicial behavior. A legal scholar that focuses solely on doctrine may be missing half the story, while a political scientist that ignores the law might be missing the other half. Having studied the Supreme Court and other federal courts from several different perspectives (including from the inside), it seems clear to me that judicial decisionmaking is a product of a host of factors, some of which political scientists are better able to evaluate (such as external political constraints) and others that are more within the expertise of legal scholars (such as stare decisis and nuances in doctrine).
I see it as a positive sign that political scientists now participate widely in legal symposia, and legal scholars now present papers at political science conferences. I also know that many of my colleagues now run a search (as I do) in Academic Search Premier or JSTOR before writing an article on the court system or judicial decisionmaking. In addition, I can say without hesitation that I have personally learned a great deal from discussions with my political science colleagues and from attendance at presentations sponsored by Minnesota's political science department. The next step, I think, is to see greater co-authorship between legal scholars and political scientists. Even so, I see a healthy trend developing.