Academic Research Center at Bucerius Law School

Since its founding in early 2016, the Academic Research Center has supported more than 200 doctoral candidates of Bucerius Law School. The Center was established to further the Law School’s commitment to cutting-edge legal research; it serves to attract highly talented lawyers and support Professor Dr. Christian Bumke, Chair of the division Fundamentals of Law, oversees the Center’s academic direction.

In addition to providing a framework of support and serving as a central point of contact for general questions and organizational matters, the Center draws connections between research topics and monitors the quality of work.

“The Center offers doctoral candidates a support system and acts as a central point around which they can orient themselves,” notes Professor Christian Bumke, academic head of the Center. "It hosts events that are conducive to their needs and enables them to network with one another."

The structured doctoral program of the Center consists of three components: the networking of candidates (in particular, with the use of an intranet platform), a diverse series of events, and the provision of tools and services designed to counter challenges encountered during doctoral studies (including opportunities for personal and professional development).

Networking via an internal platform

More than 200 doctoral candidates are currently conducting work at Bucerius Law School. While many serve as a research assistant within a chair or institute, others are employed by an external facility and enjoy only sporadic visits to campus.

Utilizing an intranet platform, doctoral candidates have an opportunity to exchange virtually and thus establish links across both physical and thematic boundaries. The system enables candidates to present their research profiles and establish specialization-based networks and working groups. In addition, discussion forums allow candidates to raise specific questions and seek advice on matter such as citation.

“Even when individuals are working in different fields, their concerns are often the same and central research questions can in many cases be linked,” explains Law School President Katharina Boele-Woelki. “This is why it makes sense to work together—with the aid of a platform as well as in person.”

With internal networking a core mission of the Center, a brown bag lecture series was implemented to elicit face-to-face exchange beyond the intranet platform: each month, two doctoral candidates come together to preset their projects and engage in discussion.

Improved support by faculty members

In addition to facilitating communication between doctoral candidates, the Center also aims to provide systematic exchange and support from local faculty members. In undertaking work on a doctoral thesis, terms for supervision are agreed to by both a candidate and the overseeing professor with mutual expectations communicated openly. Both parties are additionally encouraged to sign an agreement in which specific expectations are noted.

Course offerings and coaching

A prerequisite for admission to the doctoral studies program is participation in a workshop in which participants are familiarized with principles of good scientific practice as well as requirements of doctoral projects, offerings of the Center and information about local contacts and networks. Apart from providing organizational support, this introductory workshop endeavors to strengthen the sense of community among incoming doctoral candidates.

As an ongoing offer, optional seminars and colloquia are organized on topics such as intra- and interdisciplinary work, methods of jurisprudence (e.g., comparative law, economic analysis of law, law and society), scientific writing, conducting literature searches and matters of project and time management.

Professional coaching and counseling services are made available to doctoral candidates through all phases of their studies. These can be used for orientation purposes, as a platform for planning or in addressing acute crises. "We take care of candidates from early phases of planning through all the key stages that occur in the preparation of a dissertation,” emphasizes Professor Bumke. “We especially want to be available in moments of difficulty—for example, to assist candidates in working through writer’s block."

Support for research abroad

The Bucerius community actively encourages young scientists to treat legal issues within an international context and challenges them to examine their work through a cross-cultural lens. Now more than ever, jurisprudence is called upon to address topics within different legal systems and in consideration of varied cultural and historical backgrounds. Funding opportunities are available for junior researchers whose work concerns various aspects of comparative and international law and who wish to spend a period of time at a foreign university.