What we recognise as ‘law’ is a congeries of institutions, practices, rules and arrangements that overlap and connect with a variety of domains of life. Lawyers know a lot about these institutions and practices, but there is much that they do not know. For example, they know little about the sociology of the institutions in which they practise, and less about that of the lives they affect. And what is true of the sociology of law is true of most branches of ‘law and …’: economics, political science, philosophy, psychology, etc. Yet there is important work occurring in all these branches of scholarship.

The institutions, practices, and consequences of law itself are of significance from many points of view other than those of insider-experts. They are of interest to, and can be illuminated by, a variety of disciplines. And when law hits life, experts on various aspects of life are as important as experts on law, but they often do not mix enough or well enough. The Network for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law seeks to encourage such meetings, both literally, by bringing people together, and metaphorically by bringing ideas of varying provenance to bear on law, its character, effects, and interactions.

The Network does not pursue ‘interdisciplinarity’ as an end in itself. That way tends quickly to be undisciplined in all senses of the word. Rather, we are concerned to focus on problems that benefit from insights drawn from several disciplines. It is the match with those problems, not the particular provenance of the researcher that matters to us. However, there are many such problems which can be addressed more broadly and deeply through the cooperation of lawyers with scholars from disciplines other than doctrinal law. We focus on such problems.

The Network is based in the Law School but maintains strong connections with other Schools and Faculties within the University, in other universities in Australia and internationally, and with other institutions whose activities intersect with the programs being carried out by Network members. It has begun a number of programs of an interdisciplinary character, each headed by a scholar with expertise and interest in developing research activity in his/her particular field.

At the moment the programs under way are:

Expertise, Evidence and Law (program director: Gary Edmond)

Expert knowledge has become increasingly controversial in public life. This is perhaps most conspicuous in policy, regulatory and legal settings. Confronted with protracted and seemingly intractable expert disagreement, the proliferation of experts and debates over the relevance and reliability of particular types of expertise, modern public institutions have been actively developing techniques for managing the range of expert perspectives and problems associated with disagreement, uncertainty and the allocation of risk. This program is focused on these important and controversial issues.

Juries: Citizen Participation in Criminal Trials (program director: Jill Hunter)

Juries are as old as the common law. There is, as well, a long European tradition embracing citizen engagement in criminal trial adjudication. Whilst colonial and post-colonial export of the criminal jury system beyond the old world is well known, less appreciated is the continuing far more recent establishment of jury systems in numerous countries - Northern Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Spain and former Soviet countries, to name a few. Jury systems take many forms but there are important commonalities. These include the perception that in a country’s criminal processes juries create transparency, permit the injection of community values and reduce control by the establishment. NISL’s program explores juries from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives that illuminate the interplay of the jury trial process, legal doctrine and criminal legal practice, and wider social currents, practices and structures.

European Law (program director: Adam Czarnota)

This program continues the study of European law of the European Law Centre, which has now become part of NISL. That Centre was distinctive for the theoretical and interdisciplinary character of its research, and for its special understanding of ‘the new Europe’, and work of this character will continue.

Justice in Peace-building and Development (program director: Whit Mason)

Rule-of-law interventions in post-dictatorial and post-conflict states conventionally focus exclusively on the technocratic dimension of building institutions, ignoring other elements that play essential roles in the relationship between society and its means for enforcing its laws and adjudicating disputes. Similarly, academic studies of how approaches to justice evolve in different cultural, political and historical contexts typically examine recent or ongoing interventions and programs, while ignoring the experiences of societies whose systems of justice largely evolved before World War II. NISL’s program on Justice in Peace-building and Development takes a broader approach, supporting research that draws on the full breadth of historical experience with how the law has – or has not - come to rule in various societies.

The Sociology of the Rule of Law (program director: Martin Krygier)

This program investigates the interplay of institutional and extra-institutional conditions necessary for the rule of law. Of course, the rule of law involves legal institutions, but it also depends on congenial features of the societies in which they function, the ways they function there, and what else happens there which interacts with and affects the sway of law. For the rule of law to exist, still more to flourish and be secure, many things beside the law matter, and since societies differ in many ways, so will those things. This program studies those things.

Network Directors

  • Adam Czarnota
  • Martin Krygier

Program Directors

Members

International Advisory Board

  • John Darley, Warren Professor of Psychology, Princeton University
  • Neil Gunningham, Professor, School of Resources, Environment and Society/RegNet Program, Australian National University
  • Stephen Holmes, Walter E. Meyer Professor of Law, New York University, Faculty Advisor Centre on Law and Security
  • Luc Huyse (The site is no longer available), Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Sociology of Law, Catholic University of Leuven
  • Nicola Lacey, Professor of Criminal Law and Legal Theory, London School of Economics
  • David Lieberman, Jefferson E. Peyser Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Policy, University of California, Berkeley
  • Michael Lynch, Editor of Social Studies of Science, Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University
  • David Nelken, Distinguished Professor of Legal Institutions and Social Change, University of Macerata
  • Gianluigi Palombella, Professor of Legal Philosophy and Sociology of Law, University of Parma
  • Wojciech Sadurski, Professor of Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory, European University Institute, Florence; Professor of Legal Theory, University of Sydney, Faculty of Law
  • Andras Sajo, Judge of the European Court of Human Rights; University Professor, Central European University, Budapest
  • Kim L Scheppele, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the University Center for Human Values; Director, Program on Law and Public Affairs, Princeton University
  • Grazyna Skapska, Professor of Social Theory and Sociology of Law, Institute of Sociology, and Director, Centre for Interdisciplinary Socio-Legal Studies, Jagiellonian University, Cracow.
  • Neil Walker, Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and of Nations, University of Edinburgh
  • Marek Zirk-Sadowski, Professor of Jurisprudence, University of Lódz, Judge of the Supreme Administrative Court, Poland.