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Monday, September 16, 2013

How Does the Outer World Interact with the Ivory Tower?

Amidst thinking about the costs and pressures of legal education and law schools, we can benefit from looking more broadly at the relationship between universities and industry. A new study published in Research Policy The spillover theory reversed: The impact of regional economies on the commercialization of university science reminds us that spillovers – the positive externalities from institutional activity - are multi-directional. Mostly, the literature has focused on importance of universities in regional innovation and economic growth, including the creation of technology clusters and industrial spinoffs. This new paper looks at the effects in the opposite direction: how regional environments impact a university's success. Specifically, the study argues that university scientists are likely to develop pervasive networks of contacts with industry scientists when they work at a university embedded within a regional economy that encourages collaboration. Using social network analysis to examine the quality of social ties linking industry and university scientists in California, the study concludes that technology is more likely to flow from university to a regional innovation when the "plumbing" - the strategies and attitudes in the industry - is in place.

For law schools too, we know that geographies are sticky. We know that many of our students want to stay in the area and we encourage them to develop professional ties with the local community during law school. When times are easy, geography may matter less, but during downcycles, the importance of a community that is engaged with the law school is huge. We also are reminded of what we all intuitively know well - that national rankings (even when done well) are not the only important piece of the puzzle. The local positioning of a law school, relative to other law schools in the region, matters.

Posted by Orly Lobel on September 16, 2013 at 05:26 PM | Permalink


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