New Interdisciplinary Research Program

Bucerius Law School promotes research between law and other subjects.

In January 2017 the Academic Senate established a new program for Interdisciplinary Legal Research led by affiliate professor for law and economics Hans-Bernd Schäfer. It emerged out of proposals from a working group on interdisciplinary research, which President Katharina Boele-Woelki established last year to evaluate possibilities for strengthening interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research. An evaluation of the scope and methods of legal research worldwide showed that the bulk of scholarly work remains doctrinal but that cooperation with researchers from neighboring disciplines like economics, business administration, public policy, psychology and empirical research based on statistics has become more important, especially in the leading law departments in many countries around the world, especially in North America, Western Europe, Israel and East Asia. More than two dozen new interdisciplinary centers of legal research were established over the last 20 years, including at universities in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.  

The new program at Bucerius Law School recognizes that scholarly legal research is increasingly using methods, concepts and findings of neighboring disciplines to better understand how law particularly influences choices, behavior and policy. It enhances interdisciplinary legal research about the role of law in the economy, society and culture. It brings to Hamburg a select group of residential fellows and occasional visitors to join Bucerius Law School’s permanent faculty for research on law and economics, law and society, law and psychology, empirical legal studies and legal theory. Guests and permanent faculty work together on joint research projects and papers and organize interdisciplinary workshops and talks with outside scholars thus providing a new forum for discourse. The program also supports post-doctoral fellows of Bucerius Law School to visit interdisciplinary centers for their study of law worldwide. It is aimed at becoming a service for all permanent faculty, to advance their own plans for producing more interdisciplinary work.  

The first visitor in the new program is Professor Ram Singh from the Delhi School of Economics. He received a Ph.D. in economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and worked as a post doc with Nobel Prize laureate Oliver Hart at Harvard, who developed the economic theory of contracts. Prof. Singh regularly taught law and economics as a visiting professor at Brown University. In summer 2017 he will be a visiting professor at the economics department of the University of Heidelberg. His analytical writings on property and civil liability, based on microeconomics and game theory made him internationally known.  

His work on the economics of takings and eminent domain power brought him into contact with Hans-Bernd Schäfer from Bucerius Law School. As part of the new Bucerius Law School program for Interdisciplinary Legal Research, they are now working together on a joint paper on the economics of eminent domain law. They develop a new framework for analysing compensation rules for takings and the action for restitution, as well as the interplay between these rules. They ask how such legal norms affect the decisions of the state and the bureaucracy, as well as those of private investors, if the state is not modeled as benevolent and politicians have incentives for catering to special interests, which are different from the public interest. Unlike in civil liability, where full compensation for damages is often a necessary condition for incentivizing profit maximizing firms to reduce damages to a reasonable level, this finding does not hold for state liability. Singh and Schäfer show in their paper that less than full compensation for takings might be a necessary requirement to better protect private property by incentivizing the citizen to challenge potentially unlawful or unconstitutional takings.  

The program committee also decided to organize a workshop on civil law and economics, which should bring lawyers and economists together early next year with Professor Florian Faust as the lead organizer.