Policy Lab (LAW:9855) Syllabus (under continuous revision)
Yearlong (fall 2015 - spring 2016); Tuesday, 12:40-2:40; Classroom 265 (down in 145a the first two weeks)
Professor: Paul Gowder (Office: 407. Email: paul-gowder@uiowa.edu. Phone: 319-384-3202)
Assistant: Jackie Hand (Office: 433. Email: jackie-hand@uiowa.edu. Phone: 319-335-9213)

Course Materials
All materials will be provided online, initially at http://paul-gowder.com/policylab --- but as we begin to produce public-facing work, this will migrate to its own domain (TBD) and get fancier.

Course Objectives
In this course, we will make ourselves useful to the world. Students will will:

This seminar is project-based. The entire structure is organized around developing law-policy student projects which will be made public, and which will represent a genuine contribution to the policy conversation around a specific area relating to technology and access to justice. The following describes the process and output of these projects:

Course Scheduling
In the beginning of the year, we will meet every week. As the year progresses, we may not need to use every scheduled class session. However, do not schedule anything else for times in the class slot: you should assume that we will use every session until a specific session is officially cancelled.

As the above may suggest, the course schedule is quite flexible and subject to modification on the fly; it is scheduled in blocks rather than in specific days. For approximately the first 20% of the course, we will focus on learning background material about the focus topics, plus technical sessions in the kinds of skills necessary to carry out legally informed policy analysis. The second ~20% will be devoted to stakeholder interaction and project planning. The remaining ~60% will be developed to actually carrying out your projects, including frequent reporting and instructor + peer review sessions.

As you can probably guess, much of this course is going to be student-driven. The particular research topics within the broad subject area of this course will be largely up to you. Also, the details of this syllabus are to some extent up for negotiation: as mentioned, this is experimental, and I welcome feedback on how it should work/is working.

We also will have a goodly number of very exciting guests, mostly skyping in, including at least one CEO, one person who has made an appearance on the Forbes 30 under 30, one super-distinguished alumnus (tentatively), one brilliant external professor who might rewrite the way we think about law... and others are possible.

The touchstones of evaluation in this course are

  1. Potential for making a real-world impact in the area of the project's aim, and
  2. Skillful use of legal and policy tools.
Evaluation will be carried out based on final group projects, intermediate group reports, and intermediate and final individual reports. Evaluators include me (the professor) and external stakeholders (subject to availability). Ordinary College of Law procedures with respect to anonymous grading and the curve will not apply, although I intend to take the standard curve as persuasive authority for the final assignment of grades. The detailed process of evaluation will be as follows. Each student's final grade will be composed of 50% group grade (GG) and 50% individual grade (IG). All evaluations will be by instructor except as noted.
  1. Groups will submit an approved initial research and policy design plan by November 1. .2 GG
  2. Individuals will submit an individual sub-project plan by November 17. .25 IG
  3. Groups will make periodic informal reports and presentations to the class .1 GG (presentations omitted if one group only)
  4. Groups will submit a formal progress report in spring semester, date TBD .2 GG
  5. Individuals will submit a formal progress report for individual sub-project in spring semester, date TBD .25 IG
  6. Groups will submit and present final work product at the end of the spring semester. .5 GG, composed of half instructor evaluation and half stakeholder evaluation
  7. Individuals will submit report on individual projects, self-evaluation, and evaluation of potential implementation and further development at end of spring semester. .5 IG

Substantive topics
This (initial, experimental) year, the Policy Lab will focus on the interaction between modern developments in technology, economic changes in the legal profession, and access to justice. Thus, at the beginning of the course, we will consider the following (closely related) issues:

Policy Tools
In addition to learning about these substantive issues, we will also learn about technical tools that are useful, in addition to our legal skills, in policy analysis and design. These include:

We will choose readings from this (work in progress) list (and add to it) on an ongoing basis through the course. (I won't insist you read everything on there, but you should have them available as resources.) In addition, there are several books on both policy analysis and on the future of the legal profession which are on reserve in the library, and from which we may draw material.

Office Hours, Contacts, etc.
I will maintain office hours Monday and Tuesday 10:30am-12:00pm (subject to change). I'm also happy to make appointments at other times, and you're always free to drop by when my door is open. I'm very good at replying to e-mail and very bad at checking telephone messages.

Schedule (in progress, subject to change)
No reading for the first day of class. We will spend most of our time introducing ourselves, the basics of the topic, and the details of the course.

Week 2 (Sept 1): look at Dan Katz, Seven Observations Regarding Innovation and the Legal Industry (slides) and ABA one-pager on lawyer demographics, practice settings, etc.. We will talk about the economics of the legal profession, efficiency, and innovation.

Week 3 (Sept 8): we'll discuss predictive modeling and its impact on the legal profession. Read John McGinnis & Russell Peace, The Great Disruption: How Machine Intelligence Will Transform the Role of Lawyers in the Delivery of Legal Services. Here's a rough draft of some slides that will help us through some of the material.

Subsequent readings TBA.

Last revision: 8-29-15.