Comparative Law and the Making of Legal Doctrine: A Concept Tracing Approach

Marie-Lou Laprise, Sociology

Tue, 03/30/2021 - 12:00pm
via Zoom
Event Category: 
By Invitation Only
Graduate Students

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LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.

Abstract: "Debates about comparison or commensuration, positivism or culturalism, teasing out differences or extracting similarities, and efforts at unification or praise of pluralism, have played a key role in drawing the shifting, contested boundaries of comparative law. These discussions long overlooked other fruitful approaches that a revival of comparative legal history is now bringing to the fore. Meanwhile, comparative law remains strikingly insulated from domestic legal scholarship, which mostly ignores it or, on occasion, cursorily refers to it. Yet, I contend that historically informed comparative law is a powerful and under-utilized tool for answering domestic legal questions, particularly in mixed jurisdictions. In this Article, I describe the theory and methodology of concept tracing for the making of legal doctrine. To illustrate the potential of this comparative historical approach, I apply it to theorize Quebec’s fin de non-recevoir, a judicially created discretionary bar to an action, by retracing 223 Canadian, French, and English legal documents created over 400 years. Theory-building is a major, underexplored function of comparative law, and concept tracing is a methodology for that purpose." 

Marie-Lou Laprise

Marie-Lou Laprise is a lawyer, comparative legal historian, and PhD student in sociology. Before coming to Princeton, she studied the interaction of codified law and moral considerations in judges' reasoning, its relation to socioeconomic history, and its impact on substantive law. Her current research focuses on the socio-legal study of privatization, corporate power, and informational capitalism.