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Legal Realism

A Synthesis Of Legal Philosophies

The fifth strand of realist thought, legal empiricism, attempted to synthesize the other four strands into a single jurisprudence. Made famous by Holmes, legal empiricism claimed that law is best explained as a prediction of what judges will do in a particular case. Empiricists, who were influenced by behaviorists Ivan Pavlov and B. F. Skinner, argued that lawyers can predict the outcome of legal disputes by examining the judicial behavior of a given court.

The empiricists' efforts to integrate the other four schools of legal realism into one coherent philosophy was reflected by their belief that judicial behavior can be influenced by political, economic, sociological, practical, and historical considerations, as well as personal and psychological prejudices and idiosyncrasies. Lawyers and laypersons who spend more time studying these elements and less time studying the labyrinth of legal rules and principles that make up the law, the empiricists concluded, will have a better idea of how a judge will rule in a particular case.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Labor Department - Employment And Training Administration to Legislative PowerLegal Realism - Power And Economics In Society, The Persuasion And Characteristics Of Individual Judges, Society's Welfare