Legal Infrastructures: SID Thematic Projects
Constructing cross-national measures of the extent to which a law-based order has been institutionalized requires a multi-faceted approach. The Comparative Constitutions Project and the SPEED project provide important sources of data for this undertaking. Constitutional data can provide important insights into the role of law in a nation's institutional design. Event data is useful for gauging the role of law as a constraint on the behavior of both citizens and government officials. But another indicator of the extent to which a nation has institutionalized a law-based social order is the state of its legal infrastructure: its system of legal education, bodies of legal publications, network of professional legal associations, etc.
A legal infrastructure is a necessary accoutrement of a legal order. To be effective in realizing the ideals and principles of the rule of law a nation must have the capacity to do things such as educate aspiring lawyers, regulate legal decision-makers (judges, lawyers, paraprofessionals, etc.), provide for on-going professional education, and conduct intellectual dialogues on legal matters. Data on legal infrastructures are invaluable for capturing the role of law in a society because, like constitutional and event data, they are unobtrusive measures. They cannot be manipulated by nations desirous of appearing to embrace currently fashionable notions of the rule of law; creating a legal infrastructure requires decades of effort on the part of diffuse actors.
Because of the importance of legal infrastructures to the SID project, the Cline Center to initiated the Legal Infrastructures Project, which was conceived and supervised by Peter F. Nardulli. This was a multi-year effort that compiled historical data on legal periodicals (1773 -) and legal education programs (1100 -). This project was completed in 2009. The manner in which these data were collected and integrated is reported in a white paper describing SID efforts to construct a cross-national gauge of a country's commitment to a law-based order.