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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Legal Ed's Futures: No. 20 (guest post)

New Interdisciplinary Horizons

We are in an interdisciplinary moment, and not just the Law & Econ or Berkeley Jurisprudence and Social Policy sense.  So many of the concerns we feel for the future of legal education – and for the future of practice writ large – are directly related to the work our colleagues are doing down the street, in computer sciences, math, engineering, and other departments.  If the old interdisciplinary tool was often critique – how should we understand law  in light of economics, political science or sociology – the new one has great potential to be actionable collaboration.  I’d love to see my colleagues working with those computer scientists producing analytical tools that search web comments for common linguistic strands – the better to identify individuals who present genuine threats to society.  I’d like to see them working with the folks in engineering as they develop cybersecurity interventions that intercept data at an early point before it can do its damage.  I’d like to see my law faculty colleagues working with the AI experts, the driverless car folks, the pharma researchers creating digital pills that send an “I’m here” signal to a smartphone app when they hit the digestive track.  Of course I know that a few legal scholars have made this move – but truly, very few.

There is so much to be gained by growing this part of our research capacity.  Our faculty quite literally could work on the cutting edge of the law.  They’ll have the potential of making a real difference in how we think about, and regulate, the immersion of new tech into society.  They’ll be more relevant for their students.  And that’s only the beginning.

Amazingly enough, there is even scaffolding for this future – in the form of the same grants our colleagues receive for their research.  Many of the granting organizations and institutes have already expressed a keen interest in interdisciplinary teams – and law faculty are a logical fit.  I take Dan Hunter’s concern about lawyers and law students seriously – many lawyers got into the business precisely because we weren’t meant to code.   But on these interdisciplinary teams, law faculty won’t have to do the technical work.  They’ll just have to understand it enough to offer thoughtful interventions.  They can use their cognate PhD if they have one, bringing in insights from economics, sociology or political science.  But this interdisciplinary work is really open to all comers because, in many cases, the skills required here are awfully similar to those of a sophisticated litigator. 

All of which is to offer up my call for a new kind of interdisciplinarity – not to displace the law/social science combinations we know well, but to supplement them.  If we’re looking to build bridges to the future, what better place to turn than to the folks right down the street who are building much of that future this very moment.

Dan Filler (Drexel)

Posted by Dan Rodriguez on March 14, 2018 at 11:41 AM in 2018 Symposium: Future of Legal Ed | Permalink


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