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October 17, 2011


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Orin Kerr

I studied a lot of computational fluid mechanics before coming to law school. If there is a connection between that and studying law, it has escaped me. Related thoughts here:

Diablo de Azul

Katz is a nice guy, but kind of on a different plane when it comes to numbers and the law. Having heard him talk about some of this stuff, all I really took away was that if you mathematically analyze the usage of words in the US Code, it tells you something about the law (although I never figured out what). But I am a mathmatical idiot, so there is a very good chance it was just me.

Douglas Levene

As an MIT grad and now a law professor, I have to agree with Orin Kerr. You should also note that many years ago, MIT decided not to add a medical school, and that was a lot closer to MIT's DNA than law.

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Adam Candeub

It seems that people are missing the point. Katz isn't proposing that MIT start a law school. Rather, he shows that computational methods can and are having a big impact on the law, both in practice and theory.

For example, big firms have lower demand for junior associates (see above post on this blog). Part of the reason likely is the extinction of the model of charging juniors out at $250/hr for large discovery work. Why should a GC hire a big law firm to do that when s/he can have a scanner and a good search algorithm do the same for a lot cheaper? The demand for lawyers shifts toward those with law and computer backgrounds--thus the MIT School of Law.

From a theoretical perspective, computation has numerous applications as well. For instance, computational analyses of law can measure complexity in statutes and regulation. While limited, of course, these measurements provide objective metrics that let people talk about statutes/ agency action in new ways and offer a whole set of new possibilities for empirical investigation.

As law changes, a lot of us may be enrolled 1Ls in the MIT School of Law whether we like it or not.

Daniel Martin Katz

I just want to briefly respond to the comments from Douglas and Orin.

(1) Adam is correct - the MIT School of Law idea more about information engineering and less about physics. If you review the full presentation - cover to cover - I think you will see this is an fairly obvious response to the state of legal employment market. I also note at the end - that I do not actually think there will be MIT School of Law but that the MIT School of Law - could be you!

(2) Orin & Douglas - while at first I can understand your skepticism to physics application in law - I want to briefly highlight the connection between something like fluid dynamics and the study of law. That connection is the ubiquitous field of complex systems.

Quick aside: I noticed that UChicago is interested in rebooting law and economics. I think that is a pretty good idea because a lot of the stuff in not particularly fresh anymore. The front end theoretical folks in econ / econophysics are past equilibrium and are interested in real dynamics, networks, computational game theory, etc. They are also interested in the economics of bubbles, economics of technology (and increasing returns), etc.

Prior to entering the legal academy, I spent the past three years at the University of Michigan Center for Study of Complex Systems (which features scholars such as Scott Page, Robert Axelrod, Carl Simon, John Holland, Mark Newman and Robert Deegan (who studies fluid dynamics). Michigan CSCS is sort of the Midwest outpost of the Santa Fe Institute.

I have a full syllabus for the class that I used to teach to Michigan undergrads which I believe demonstrates the connection -

it is called "LAW AS COMPLEX SYSTEM"

Also, see generally see my full online version of our summer course from UMich ICPSR Summer Methods Program:

(3) The strongest force in the universe is the status quo. This, I do not expect most schools to adopt this approach. In fact, all of the arbitrage value would be extracted if they did. I simply suggest this for an upstart school (like what G. Mason did with L&E back in the day) that is interested in playing Moneyball while other schools rearrange the deck chairs :)


Daniel Martin Katz

** Please excuse the typos - I wrote this pretty quickly :)

Best, Dan

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