” In the future the machines will do the mechanical stuff. Legal experts will be needed to craft policy and design legal software.”

October 29th, 2011

More from Larry Ribstein on the future of legal education based on the University of Chicago’s recent move to rehabilitate law and econ (summary here)

I recently discussed this market-oriented perspective on law teaching in my article, Practicing Theory.  The article’s basic point is that deregulation and fundamental changes in the market for legal expertise, particularly including those driven by technology, will  force law schools to think harder about how to make their students more competitive.  Unlike many commentators on legal education, I don’t think this involves more trial practice, clinics and externships in law schools, but rather a refocusing of the theoretical and policy-oriented work that is legal education’s traditional comparative advantage.

More specifically, we need better integration of law and technology.  We should also focus on legal architecture or engineering rather than the mechanics of applying received legal wisdom.  In the future the machines will do the mechanical stuff.  Legal experts will be needed to craft policy and design legal software.

So the question is, how can the theory and practice of law and economics best meet these market needs? Richard Posner comes closest to this general sentiment when he says “economic analysis of law may lose influence by becoming too esoteric, too narrow, too hermetic, too out of touch with the practices and institutions that it studies.”

David Weisbach offers what may be the most practical suggestion — more thinking about the use of computational models in law.  As he says,  this

is a very different view of legal analysis—it views problems as engineering problems that we model and test. It is empirical, practical, and solution-driven. The role of the legal scholar is to help frame problems, to think about how institutional structures affect the framing, to suggest solutions, and to help interpret and evaluate results.