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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 319-384-3202)
Assistant: Jackie Hand (Office: 433. Email: email@example.com. Phone: 319-335-9213)
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.
In this course, we will make ourselves useful to the world. Students will will:
- Learn about legal and policy issues law and technology interact, and interact with stakeholders in these areas
- Learn how to combine legal skills and other skills relevant to policy, such as public communication, project design, and data analysis
- Design and execute a project leading to legal and policy work product that can be shared with the world, and which will contribute to justice in an area of your choice
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:
- They will be group-produced, with group sizes and numbers depending on enrollment. (Based on current enrollment, there may be just one group. That's ok! You'll get all my attention, and become really skilled by the end of the course.)
- They will be based on input from stakeholders in the policy domain in which the project lives, and will integrate that input, policy analysis techniques (which will be taught), and legal analysis.
- They will produce legal work product informed by policy understanding (developed per the previous item). "Legal work product" is just concrete work product that makes use of legal knowledge and skills. This can be conventional legal output (briefs, memos, model legislation, changes to legal ethics rules, etc.), but it can also be more unconventional work. Examples of potential more unconventional legal work product might include:
- a roadmap for litigation,
- a technical tool (e.g. involving data analysis) that lawyers can use,
- even something like an app for the public to use, if it draws on legal knowledge and skills.
- They will relate to (wrestle with, or make productive use of) the impact of recent technological developments (to be reviewed in the first part of the course) on law and in particular the legal profession.
- They will be aimed at advancing access to justice for underserved groups, including without limitation the poor, immigrants (especially undocumented or without access to English), victims of violence, etc. This is interpreted fairly broadly to include, e.g., policy initiatives that reduce the cost of lawyers, that increase the compensation of lawyers for serving the underserved, that make it easier for citizens to access legal services without lawyers, etc. This objective need not be understood with respect to the United States---policy initiatives directed at other countries or the international legal system are quite fine, although access to stakeholders may be more difficult in those domains.
- They will be practical and implementable (including politically practical), as judged by actual stakeholders and experts.
- They will be shared with the public. (All work product will be shared over the internet, and otherwise as appropriate---this is a condition of real-world impact, and thus of participation in this seminar; it's also good for you, for it will allow you to develop a portfolio of novel use of legal and other skills that will help you stand out, e.g., to employers.)
- They will include (or be composed of) individual sub-projects, in which individual group members take primary (although not exclusive) personal ownership of (that is, responsibility for) a specific portion of the group's output
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
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.
- Potential for making a real-world impact in the area of the project's aim, and
- Skillful use of legal and policy tools.
- Groups will submit an approved initial research and policy design plan by November 1. .2 GG
- Individuals will submit an individual sub-project plan by November 17. .25 IG
- Groups will make periodic informal reports and presentations to the class .1 GG (presentations omitted if one group only)
- Groups will submit a formal progress report in spring semester, date TBD .2 GG
- Individuals will submit a formal progress report for individual sub-project in spring semester, date TBD .25 IG
- 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
- Individuals will submit report on individual projects, self-evaluation, and evaluation of potential implementation and further development at end of spring semester. .5 IG
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:
- Pressures on the monopoly of state-licensed lawyers from multijurisdictional legal advice and representation platforms over the internet supplying either foreign lawyer or non-lawyer legal advice
- The potential for automating legal tasks previously performed by lawyers, from well-established developments like electronic discovery document search to more modern developments such as AI evaluation of legal claims
- The growth of predictive modeling techniques in the law, and the rise of data-driven legal technology
- The technologically mediated bundling and unbundling of legal services, and the potential for either lawyers or non-lawyers to provide unbundled services at lower cost
- The potential for automating the enforcement of both public and private law, and the consequences of that for the balance of power between government, business, the bar, and ordinary citizens.
- The distributional impacts of cost-cutting efficiencies in legal services, and the kinds of clients that those efficiencies advantage and disadvantage.
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:
- Design thinking and process---including stakeholder needfinding and iterative development
- Cost-benefit analysis and forecasting
- Outcome evaluation
- Basic data analysis
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.