Law School News

Updated: 32 min 21 sec ago

Omri Ben-Shahar on Evidence of Ineffective "Behaviorally Informed" Disclosures

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 09:48
More Failed Nudges: Evidence of Ineffective "Behaviorally Informed" Disclosures Omri Ben-Shahar Jotwell August 10, 2017

As Truth-in-Lending laws are celebrating half a century of failure, and as consumers—especially those with low income—continue to make disastrous credit decisions, lawmakers are looking to reboot the disclosure paradigm. Energized by insights from behavioral economics, Twenty-First Century regulators are rapidly discarding the old idea of “comprehensive” disclosure, developing instead psychologically-smart, graphically-appealing, and timely-relevant compact disclosure templates. But now, a new study by Seira et al. has put to the test an array of these smart disclosures. And the results are devastating.

Smart disclosures seem to make perfect sense. If consumers need information to make good decisions, it should be delivered to them in a user-friendly manner. Smart disclosures should provide salient “total cost of credit” scores. They should “nudge” debtors to avoid massive debt, for example by showing them the real cost of making only minimum monthly payments. They should harness “peer effects” by warning people when their debt is above average for similar consumers. And they should arrive via eye-popping easy-to-understand media.

Some of these techniques show modest promise in the lab. But would they work in the real lives of consumers? A few years ago I co-wrote a book on this topic (Ben-Shahar and Schneider, 2014). On the basis of evidence from prior rounds of disclosure reform and a diagnosis why disclosures failed, we predicted that the new round of smart disclosures would not bring improvements. Not surprisingly, our book did not slow down the legions of enthusiastic disclosurites. Hopes were high that behaviorally-informed disclosure regulations would make successful transition from the lab to the street.

Some disappointing evidence began to arrive, primarily in an excellent paper by Agarwal et al. (2015), showing that the 2009 CARD Act reform requiring the months-to-pay disclosure nudge had no meaningful effect. But the recently published paper by Seira, Elizondo, and Laguna-Müggenburg is truly a game changer. It quashes the hope that the new paradigm of disclosure would succeed where its predecessors failed.

Read more at:

Faculty:  Omri Ben-Shahar

Aziz Huq: "When Government Defames"

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 09:35
When Government Defames Aziz Huq The New York Times August 10, 2017

CHICAGO — Imagine that a senior government official takes to Twitter, makes a call to a national news outlet or goes on national television to disparage you. Imagine that he tells lies about you to a national audience, lies harmful to your professional or personal future. What could you do to remedy the situation?

You might seek a retraction. Perhaps you would go to colleagues and friends to privately plead your side of the case. Or if you were lucky enough to have a national platform of your own, maybe you would try to correct the defamatory statement in public.

But one thing you couldn’t do is sue. No judicial remedy exists when a federal official defames someone. This gap in the law isn’t a result of a conscious decision by Congress or federal judges to protect the government’s ability to defame you. It was created inadvertently. In an age when the political lie is being weaponized to increasing effect, it’s an oversight Congress should redress.

Read more at:

Faculty:  Aziz Huq

Henderson to Publish Legal Thriller

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 10:56
Down & Out Books to Publish Debut Political Thriller by University of Chicago Law Professor PRLog August 9, 2017

Down & Out Books has announced that it will publish Mental State, the debut political thriller by distinguished University of Chicago Law School professor M. Todd Henderson. The book is scheduled to be released in late 2018.

Mental State is about one man's desperate search to find his brother's killer. When law professor Alex Johnson is found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, everyone thinks it is suicide. Everyone except his FBI agent brother, Royce. Agent Johnson's rogue investigation into his brother's murder tracks the killer from the ivy-covered halls of an elite university to the streets of Chicago to the steps of the Supreme Court. Mental State is about two brothers learning about each other in death, and about the things people will do when convinced they are in the right.

"I've always been intrigued by the ways in which we justify the taking of human life," said Henderson. "Whether it is to satisfy our taste for revenge, to pursue justice, or to serve the common good, man is always excusing being a wolf to other men. As a law professor, this inquiry sits at the heart of what I teach and write about. Writing a novel, based loosely on my own life and experiences, allowed me to explore the question in a different way."

"I was excited to learn that Todd was interested in having us publish his new thriller," said Eric Campbell, publisher of Down & Out Books. "This is the kind of book that appeals to me as a reader: fast-paced and dynamically written with a strong and topical theme. It will be a solid addition to our library of titles."

M. Todd Henderson is the Michael J. Marks Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He received a civil engineering degree from Princeton University and worked for several years designing and building dams in California before law school. After graduation, he served as a clerk in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and subsequently practiced law in Washington, DC at Kirkland & Ellis and then worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Company. He joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 2004.

Alexander Hoyt Associates represents Mental State for film and foreign-language rights. Elaine Ash serves as developmental editor.

Celebrating six years as an independent publisher of award-winning literary and crime fiction, Down & Out Books is based in Tampa, Florida. For more information about the book, or to request an interview with the author or publisher, contact

Faculty:  M. Todd Henderson

"Sex and the Constitution" Reviewed in The Chicago News

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 15:14
‘Sex and the Constitution’ Jim Vail Chicago News August 8, 2017

I must admit when I went through a list of the latest books published this year by Chicago authors to review in our paper – Sex and the Constitution stood out. Sex and our laws, now there’s an interesting topic to explore.

Sex and the Constitution written by University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone explores the history of sex, religion, law and constitutional law from the ancient world to the 21st century. One quick warning – it is long, over 500 pages, but it is filled with good prose in understandable language that paints an interesting historical picture of society and sex.

Stone explains how American attitudes about sex have been shaped over the centuries by religious beliefs, primarily by the Christian religion here, about sex, sin and shame, and how it affects people’s constitutional rights.

Read more at:

Faculty:  Geoffrey R. Stone

M. Todd Henderson on the Complexities of Corporate Espionage (Audio)

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 09:46
Corporate Espionage In The Midwest The 21st August 7, 2017

Last month, a Wisconsin man was indicted for allegedly trying to steal secrets from a cast-iron manufacturer in the Chicago area. The indictment said he planned to use them at his new job in China. But he never made it. According to the Chicago Tribune, he was arrested at O’Hare right before he got on the plane.

Protecting secrets from corporate espionage is a growing challenge for many US companies -- whether tech firms, manufacturers or agriculture.

To learn more, we were joined by KCUR reporter Bryan Thompson and University of Chicago law professor Todd Henderson.

Read more at:

Faculty:  M. Todd Henderson

Hemel and Posner Explain How Congress Can Protect Robert Mueller

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 09:38
A Better Way to Protect Robert Mueller Daniel Hemel and Eric Posner The New York Times August 7, 2017

Senators introduced two bipartisan bills last week to block President Trump from firing Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the Russian election tampering investigation. Both bills mean well, but both miss the mark. While they provide Mr. Mueller with a modicum of job security, they do not prevent President Trump from interfering with the investigation.

Under Justice Department regulations, the attorney general can remove Mr. Mueller “for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of departmental policies.” That seems like a high bar, but there’s a catch: The attorney general’s decision to remove Mr. Mueller cannot be challenged in court. And because the removal provision is found in a regulation rather than a statute passed by Congress, it can be modified by the Trump administration.

The bills seek to strengthen the regulatory restrictions on firing the special counsel. One of them — introduced by Senators Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, and Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware — would codify the regulatory removal standard, which means that the Trump administration could not modify the removal restrictions unilaterally. The Tillis-Coons bill would also allow the special counsel to challenge his removal in court; a panel of three federal judges would have 14 days to decide whether removal was proper. If the panel disagreed with the attorney general’s decision, it could reinstate the special counsel immediately.

Read more at:

Faculty:  Daniel Hemel Faculty:  Eric Posner

Pacific Standard Cites Mary Anne Case's Research on Sex-Segregated Bathrooms

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 12:24
Stalled Out: How Social Bias is Segregating America's Bathrooms Kate Wheeling Pacific Standard August 4, 2017

Why is integration such a big deal? The stakes are higher than you might think: It's about opportunity as much as convenience. While plenty of sociological research has suggested that our muted, passive interactions with most strangers in restrooms are governed by strict yet unspoken behavior codes, Mary Anne Case, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, has found that a significant amount of active networking takes place in men's rooms. She argues that equality will never be achieved while sex-segregated restrooms persist, citing John Kerry's admission on The Daily Show that a surprising number of men took the opportunity to introduce themselves in the bathroom during his 2004 presidential campaign. California's Bohemian Grove—a members-only retreat known as the epitome of boys' clubs—excluded women in part because their presence would impinge upon the male clientele's "hallowed freedom to pee" when and where they wanted at the facility's campground. It took a lawsuit to set the club straight.

Read more at:

Faculty:  Mary Anne Case

Richard McAdams on What it Means that Mueller Has Formed a Grand Jury

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 12:48
How important is it that Mueller has formed a grand jury? I asked 20 legal experts. Sean Illing Vox August 4, 2017 Richard McAdams, law professor, University of Chicago

It is important in the sense that it is a necessary step to a federal indictment. But convening a grand jury doesn’t mean there will be an indictment of anyone, or even that it is likely. It means that Mueller has reached a point where he would prefer to investigate possible crimes by having a grand jury issue subpoenas, rather than having his personnel attempt to conduct voluntary interviews.

Eric Posner: "Time to Talk About Impeachment?"

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 12:26
Time to Talk About Impeachment? Eric Posner August 4, 2017

Until now, impeachment was off the table for three reasons. First, Republicans control the House and Senate and as long as they could put up with Trump, they would never start impeachment proceedings let alone convict. Second, in the immediate aftermath of the election, impeachment would have been seen as a repudiation of democracy, and hence as a kind of coup, even if the formalities of the procedure had been complied with. Third, there were no “crimes or misdemeanors” that could be pinned on Trump, at least none that were sufficiently clear to warrant the disruption of impeachment.

All this is changing before our eyes. Republicans in Congress are gradually distancing themselves from Trump. As long as he can’t deliver political victories like health care reform, they gain nothing from keeping him in office. And as Trump continually proves himself erratic, untrustworthy, and incompetent, the prospect of a long string of political defeats is becoming inescapable. We are a long way from this point of time (perhaps Kelly will delay it for a few days), but an inflexion point has been reached.

Read more at:

Faculty:  Eric Posner

Martha C. Nussbaum on Accountability in an Era of Celebrity

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 10:31
Accountability in an Era of Celebrity: Sexual Violence, Culture and the Law Martha C. Nussbaum ABC Religion and Ethics August 3, 2017

On 30 December 2015, actor Bill Cosby was finally charged with sexual assault.

For anyone who has followed the case, one striking aspect is how late an actual indictment came, and after a huge number of accusations. One legal problem has been the statute of limitations for rape, an issue by now much discussed.

But another obvious aspect is the fact that as a society we have created a class of glamorous and powerful men - entertainers, athletes - who are in a most literal sense above the law.

These men will almost always prevail against all accusations, no matter what they do in the sexual domain, because they are shielded by glamor, public trust and access to the best legal representation.

Cosby might prove the exception only because his abuses of women were so numerous and so flagrant. What I think as I read the news is, "For one Cosby, there are hundreds like him who will never be indicted."

Read more at:

Faculty:  Martha C. Nussbaum

Daniel Hemel on the Russia Sanctions Bill

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 09:21
Trump Says the Russia Sanctions Bill Is Unconstitutional: He's Mostly Right Daniel Hemel Slate August 2, 2017

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Act, passed by the House and Senate last week with the aim of strengthening sanctions against Iran, North Korea, and Russia, includes “a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions.” He signed the bill anyway, knowing that supporters of the legislation had more than enough votes to override any veto. Trump, though, accompanied his signature with a signing statement delineating the particular provisions his administration thinks are unconstitutional.

Given the president’s penchant for bogus constitutional claims, the signing statement is surprisingly accurate in much of its legal analysis. Not all of his assertions are consistent with Supreme Court precedent, but some certainly are, and the president is correct in his topline conclusion that the bill contains a number of clearly unconstitutional elements.

Read more at:

Faculty:  Daniel Hemel

New York Review of Books on Stone's "Sex and the Constitution"

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 09:11
Our Trouble with Sex: A Christian Story? Annette Gordon-Reed The New York Review of Books August 1, 2017

Why the visceral hatred of the idea of men having sex with men, and women having sex with women? Why would the hostility be so strong that in Great Britain until the mid-nineteenth century, in the early American colonies, and in Chechnya in 2017, death would be considered a suitable punishment for those who engaged in this activity? Beyond homosexuality, what interest did (and do) people living in a supposedly secular and liberal society have in regulating perhaps the most intimate aspect of an adult’s life—consensual sexual behavior with another adult? How do people decide which sexual acts, conducted in private, have a public impact and, therefore, become the public’s business? For our purposes, why do Americans think as we do about sex, and how have we used the Constitution, and the laws of the fifty states, to instantiate those beliefs?

In his deeply researched new book, Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century, Geoffrey R. Stone gives his answer to these and other questions about our country’s regulation of sex, with a special emphasis on same-sex activity. According to Stone, a scholar of constitutional law at the University of Chicago, Christianity has exerted the biggest influence on how we have addressed the issue from colonial times to today. The “central theme” of Sex and the Constitution “is that American attitudes about sex have been shaped over the centuries by religious beliefs—more particularly, by early Christian beliefs—about sex, sin, and shame.”

Read more at:

Faculty:  Geoffrey R. Stone

Prof. Omri Ben-Shahar on Why the FAA Should Not Regulate Airline Seat Space

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 09:01
Let Them Shrink: FAA Should Not Regulate Airline Seat Space Omri Ben-Shahar Forbes August 1, 2017

Everybody likes to fly comfortably. Most also like to fly affordably. It should be obvious that the two common desires—comfort and affordability—are in tension with each other. Extra leg space on the airplane is like a larger suite at the hotel—it costs more. Airlines are creating a menu of choices, from the packed-like-sardines deep discount class through the more-leg-space “economy plus” and all the way to lie-flat business class recliners. Consumers are choosing between amenity and thrift, with many trading away inches for dollars.

Nevertheless, in the guise of “flyers’ rights,” some are trying to take away this choice and force the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to demand that airlines provide more comfortable seating. They complain that consumers are tired of being squeezed into tight seats, and they think that it’s time for the FAA to step up and regulate more leg space. The FAA, correctly remembering that its primary role is to regulate safety, not comfort, has been reluctant so far to intervene in the matter and to issue seat-size regulations. But a rulingby a federal court this week is making it harder for the FAA to resist the comfort crusade.

Read more at:

Faculty:  Omri Ben-Shahar

Esther Kane, Friend of the Law School, 1920-2017

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 18:18
Chicago Tribune July 31, 2017

Esther Kane, nee Abrams, 97. Beloved wife of the late Arthur O. Kane and the late Herbert Steinback; devoted mother of James (Joanne) Steinback and Barbara (Arthur) Bushkin; cherished grandmother of Eric (Sarah) Steinback, Adam (Amy) Steinback, Scott (Valerie) Slavin and Sean (Rebecca) Slavin; proud great-grandmother of six. Esther was a dedicated philanthropist, giving most notably to The University of Chicago Law School, The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, Hyde Park Day School, the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School, the Jewish Women's Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern.

To read more about Esther and Arthur’s tremendous philanthropic support of the Law School, click here.

Bernstein Discusses the Theory of the Firm in Reputation Magazine

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 13:20
Conference Report: Theory of the Firm Reputation Magazine July 31, 2017

At the Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation's Theory of the Firm conference, eminent academics and senior practitioners examined the ramifications of the outsourcing revolution, and the implications for contracting and relationships between firms. Contributions from the banking, automotive, retail and IT sectors made clear that cultures and concern for reputation sit at the heart of these relationships. Below, four of the participating academics, Alan Morrison, Gillian Hadfield, Oliver Hart and Lisa Bernstein, discuss the ‘scaffolding’ of an evolving business environment. 

Conference Report: Theory of the Firm

Alan: I’m going to start by asking everybody what they think was most useful and valuable about the conference. 

Gillian: I was very interested in hearing from the people talking about global supply chains and the comparison between the rule of law and the rule of values, and the ways in which cultures and values helped to coordinate the willingness to move forward in an uncertain, complex environment. 

Oliver: For an economist like me, the question of what can be outsourced or what can’t be–or shouldn’t be–remains an extremely complicated question. Hearing the way practitioners talk about it helps me to think about how perhaps the theory should be modified. Relationships are clearly very important. You can get great things through outsourcing if you have good relationships, if you take advantage of reputation. 

When I was listening to that I was wondering: why isn’t everything out-sourced? You know, it seems as if there are some core functions of the firm, the basic essence of what a firm is which you don’t want to outsource, that it would be dangerous to do; but perhaps almost everything else can be. Then again we heard in the session on IT that actually there, somehow, the relationships and the reputation don’t seem to work so well.

In the last few years I have been focusing on the idea of contractors’ reference points, where the idea is that the contract is almost a communication device where the parties sit down and get themselves onto the same page so that they know what’s expected of them in the future. It’s not really about people’s rights and obligations to go to court if things go wrong. It was very interesting to hear that several of the practitioners seemed to think of contracts in the same way. 

Alan: I was very struck by the fact that most of the people we spoke to wouldn’t–unless it was an absolute last resort–dream of resorting to litigation, because of concern for both reputation and ambiguity-related problems. 

Lisa: As lawyers we’re trained to think that everybody on the opposite side is going to act opportunistically and strategically at every turn, and that we’re supposed to constrain them through contracts. For me the most interesting thing that emerged from the conference, although not necessarily the most unexpected, was the view that what contracts actually do is coordinate expectations. They are a blueprint for how the relationship should go forward, and of how you work out problems. So I think the emphasis on contracts as governance devices as opposed to pure opportunism-preventing devices, is something important that found deep support in the comments of our participants from the business world.

Alan: Gillian mentioned the importance of values, and one of our academic speakers, Steven Tadelis, talks a lot about culture. Do you think we’ve seen good case study examples of cultural values at work and how can we think about those in a more formal way? 

Lisa: I think you see the importance of culture when you see the difficulties involved in certain mergers, where workforces from different companies don’t integrate very well at all. Some commentators have attributed this to a clash of firm cultures. 

Read more at:

Faculty:  Lisa Bernstein

Adam Chilton: Political Donations by Mueller's Team Are Not Evidence of Bias

Fri, 07/28/2017 - 14:11
The political donations made by Robert Mueller's team are not evidence of bias Adam Bonica, Adam Chilton, Maya Sen Los Angeles Times July 28, 2017

President Trump's aides reportedly have begun looking for evidence that the legal team assembled by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has conflicts of interest. As part of their search, aides are looking at the legal team’s political donations. Based on evidence that at least seven of the 15 lawyers have previously given money to Democrats, it appears, the administration is gearing up to make the argument that Mueller’s team is biased and thus unable to reach impartial legal conclusions.

But it’s hardly remarkable that most of Mueller’s investigators appear to be Democratic donors. It would be shocking if they weren’t.

Justice Department rules prohibit taking political affiliation into account when filling career positions at the agency, including those in the special counsel’s office. These rules are designed to ensure that legal investigations aren’t partisan affairs. When the rules were ignored by George W. Bush’s Department of Justice, it was a national scandal.

Read more at:

Faculty:  Adam Chilton

Geoffrey R. Stone on Trump's Declaration on Transgender Persons in the Armed Forces

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 12:38
Trump’s Outrageous ‘Proclamation’ About Transgender Persons Serving In The Military Is Ignorant, Immoral And Un-American Geoffrey R. Stone Huffington Post July 26, 2017

As we contemplate Trump’s declaration banning transgender Americans from serving in our armed forces, it is useful to think back on our nation’s history with gays and lesbians serving in the military.

In all of our nation’s wars up until World War II, prospective soldiers were not asked about their sexual orientation. Although the Code of Military Justice prohibited any member of the armed forces to engage “in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex” – meaning oral or anal sex – there was no special rule directed at homosexuals. And although military officials in World War I were well aware of the presence of homosexuals in the ranks, they almost never court-martialed members of the military for consensual sodomy – whether same-sex or opposite-sex.

In the lead-up to World War II, however, the Selective Service for the first time instituted a policy designed to weed out prospective soldiers who were deemed psychologically unsuited for military service. Although the policy was not specifically directed at homosexuals, those charged with enforcing the policy concluded that homosexuals by definition fell within the category of those who were “psychologically unsuited” for military service.

Read more at:

Faculty:  Geoffrey R. Stone

Abebe and Baird Elected to the American Law Institute

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 12:04
The American Law Institute Elects 58 New Members American Law Institute July 27, 2017

The American Law Institute has elected 58 new members who will bring their expertise in several areas of law to ALI’s work of clarifying the law through Restatements, Principles and the Model Penal Codes. Members were selected from confidential nominations submitted by ALI members for the March 15, 2017, deadline. Membership proposals received thereafter and prior to the June 15 deadline will be considered in the fall.

University of Chicago Law School professors Daniel Abebe and Douglas Baird were elected as part of the 2017 group. 

“I am very pleased to have these remarkable judges, practitioners, and academics join our engaged group of distinguished and thoughtful members,” said ALI President David F. Levi. “I look forward to working with them as we continue The American Law Institute’s important work on Restatements of the Law, Principles of Law, the Model Penal Code and the UCC.”

Election of these new members raises ALI's total number of elected members to 2,871. Visit the Newly Elected Members page to view biographical sketches of the new members.

Read more at:

Faculty:  Daniel Abebe Faculty:  Douglas G. Baird

Partnerships and Learning at the Mothership of Law and Economics

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 11:02
Becky Beaupre Gillespie Law School Communications July 27, 2017

The Law School’s successful Summer Institute in Law and Economics, which has spurred a growing number of conferences, scholarly collaborations, and academic programs around the world, attracted the most globally diverse class in its six-year history earlier this month. The intensive two-week program drew 67 participants from 23 countries, many of whom engaged so vigorously that their debates spilled not just into the hallways—as they often do during the Summer Institute—but out into the community, where the visiting scholars debated open markets for hours at Starbucks, speculated on data models that might apply in everyday life, and compared notes on methodological approaches over dinner.

“It was inspiring and incentivizing,” said Mateusz Grochowski, an assistant professor in the Institute of Legal Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. “We are a broad and diverse group of scholars from all over the world, and we were able to discuss our academic experiences, the methodologies we brought from our home countries, and the ways we resolve particular issues. I think some of the relationships I have made here will last a long time.”

These global connections have been a key part of the mission since Omri Ben-Shahar, the Leo and Eileen Herzel Professor of Law and Kearney Director of the Coase-Sandor Institute for Law and Economics, launched the Summer Institute in 2012 in an effort to share the Law School’s signature interdisciplinary field with the world. It’s a mission that has been steadily borne out as the program’s reach has expanded. Since its inception, Coase-Sandor’s Summer Institute has trained more than 400 top international scholars from 37 countries, sparking a global conversation about the economic analysis of law and its applications.

“Many of our participants are established academics in their countries, sensing an opportunity to retool and to bring some Chicago ideas to their communities,” Ben-Shahar said. “It is remarkable how much time and energy my colleagues on the faculty have agreed to invest in this project.”

In March, Florence G’Sell, a French scholar who had attended the Summer Institute in 2015, teamed up with Ben-Shahar to host a “Law and Big Data” conference at the 17th-century Palais du Luxembourg in Paris, home of the French Senate. In December, an Icelandic government investment corporation CEO who attended the Summer Institute in 2015 and 2017 launched his country’s first law and economics association. In addition, past participants have published papers on law and economics both in the U.S. and abroad, invited other participants and Law School faculty to speak at academic conferences in their home countries, and developed law-and-economics workshops and courses, all drawing on the knowledge and connections they nurtured in Chicago.

Eriko Taoka, an associate professor of law at Kokushikan University in Japan, said the 2017 Summer Institute had offered valuable instruction in law and economics that she will apply to her own research on contracting practices in Singapore. Taoka is examining how international sales law impacts the way people do business, and applies empirical analysis to advance her work. In Japan, however, legal scholars tend to be highly specialized, and they prefer doctrinal work—and the Summer Institute’s offered her new interdisciplinary ways to approach her research.

“Once you specialize in one field, it becomes harder to understand what is going on in other areas,” she said. “Here I’ve been learning other fields, and I have seen that (interdisciplinarity) is not just about acquiring new knowledge—a lot of what you learn from other areas can be applied to one’s own field.”

Professor Adam Chilton, for example, had offered ideas on international public law and human rights law that she found applicable to her own research. “It’s one of the great things about coming here,” she said. “It’s a shift in a way of thinking.”

That shift also appealed to Grochowski, who has expanded beyond doctrinal research—which is still the predominant approach in Europe, too—to embrace empirical work. But he sought to move beyond the fundamentals of law and economics to better understand the latest developments, he said.

“The Summer Institute opens some new windows and new doors in how we think about economic analysis,” Grochowski said. “The lectures of Omri Ben-Shahar , for instance, included not just how the classical doctrines applied to private law but (introduced us to) the new questions, too. And this was true for the other lectures as well. It’s a unique chance to learn from the top scholars in law and economics and look at the new research frontiers.”

In its first year, the Summer Institute drew 78 scholars, all from China. And although Chinese scholars still account for a large fraction of participants, global diversity has steadily grown. Over the past five years, scholars from six continents have attended the intensive program, and new countries are added nearly every year. This summer, scholars attended for the first time from Belgium, Ecuador, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, and Syria.

Tarek Teras, a Syrian scholar and a doctoral candidate at Aix Marseille University in France who has been using economic analysis to compare the enforcement of European and American antitrust laws, said robust debate with scholars from around the world was among the many highlights of the conference.

“The scholars are very well selected, and they have such rich backgrounds,” Teras said. “Just this weekend, I was with some of the Latin American scholars, and we were discussing open markets … for two or three hours in Starbucks. It was a very interesting discussion to hear different points of view.”

Ann-Sophie Vandenberghe, a Belgian scholar and an associate professor at the renowned Erasmus School of Law in Rotterdam, particularly loved hearing Senior Lecturer Richard Posner, a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the author of Economic Analysis of Law, a red hardcover volume first published in 1973 and now in its ninth edition.

“It was wonderful to hear from a founding father of what I do in my professional life—the author of the ‘red bible,’” said Vandenberghe, who has devoted two decades to studying law and economics and teaches a class called Concepts and Methods in Law and Economics. “This is the mothership of law and economics—it is where you come to see the frontier and to see what’s new on the research and teaching agenda so you can implement it at home. Coming here is coming to the core, to the source of law and economics.”

Faculty:  Omri Ben-Shahar Faculty:  Saul Levmore Faculty:  Adam Chilton Faculty:  Randal C. Picker Faculty:  Richard A. Posner Faculty:  Martha C. Nussbaum Faculty:  Tom Ginsburg

Adam Chilton, Assistant Professor of Law, teaching Economic Analysis of International Law at the 2017 Summer Institute in Law and Economics.

This Year’s Highlights:

The 2017 Summer Institute featured four units, each consisting of five two-hour lectures taught by Law School faculty, including Saul Levmore, the William B. Graham Distinguished Service Professor of Law, who taught Public Choice and the Law: Economic Analysis of Lawmaking; Adam Chilton, Assistant Professor of Law, who taught Economic Analysis of International Law; Randal C. Picker, the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law, who taught Economic Analysis of the Internet; and Omri Ben-Shahar, who taught Economic Analysis of Private Law: New Frontiers. Participants also heard talks by a variety of speakers—including Kevin Murphy, the George J. Stigler Distinguished Service Professor of Economics; Senior Lecturer Richard Posner, a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals; Martha Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, Richard L. Sandor, the Aaron Director Lecturer in Law and Economics and Chairman and CEO of Environmental Financial Products; and Tom Ginsburg, the Leo Spitz Professor of International Law. At the end of the program, many of the participants were invited to present their own scholarly work and received feedback from Chicago faculty.

Related Coverage:

Inspiring Cross-Border Collaboration (August 9, 2016)

How Information Analytics Will Change the Law (March 29, 2017)

Former Summer Institute Scholar Celebrates Coase by Spreading Law and Economics—to Iceland (January 5, 2017)

Summer Institute Highlights Growing Impact of Law and Economics (July 29, 2015)

The World Comes to Study Law and Economics (October 2012)


Robert A. Ferguson, former visiting professor, 1942-2017

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 10:06
Professor Robert A. Ferguson, Pioneer of the Modern Law and Literature Movement, Dies at 75 Columbia Law School July 27, 2017

Columbia Law School Professor Emeritus Robert A. Ferguson—a man of letters whose expansive, category-hopping approach to legal scholarship ranged from a critically acclaimed book on the plight of the incarcerated to a historical study of court trials as public, political, and literary events—died on July 1, 2017 after a long battle with cancer at 75.

Ferguson joined the Columbia University English Department faculty in 1989 and over the course of his quarter-century association with the University, received many honors and fellowships, including the Law School’s Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2003, and the Columbia University Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1998. He became a full-time member of the Law School faculty in 1995, and served as the George Edward Woodberry Professor of Law, Literature, and Criticism until his retirement in 2016.

“Robert was a distinguished and trailblazing scholar, a master teacher, a deeply engaged faculty citizen, and a devoted member of the Columbia Law School community,” said Dean Gillian Lester, the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law.

At a Law School tribute in February 2016 in honor of Ferguson’s retirement, Vice Dean and Professor Jamal Greene called Ferguson “a most worthy successor” to a previous holder of the George Edward Woodberry chair, the great American literary critic Lionel Trilling.

In addition to being a “great writer,” Greene said, Ferguson was also a great teacher. He then read from student evaluations of Ferguson’s classes, noting these evaluations were “replete with references to how fastidious is his preparation for class, how much respect he shows his students, how he shows them the kind of empathy for their projects, plans, and problems that Robert so dearly wishes the world showed to everyone, including its prisoners.” One student wrote, “What I have learned from Professor Ferguson will carry me through my life both as a lawyer and as a person.”



Ferguson graduated from Harvard College in 1964. (His writing career began at The Harvard Crimson, where he served as a sports reporter.) After spending a year at the London School of Economics on a Fulbright Scholarship, Ferguson returned to his alma mater, earning a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1968 and a Ph.D. in American civilization from Harvard University in 1974. Before arriving at Columbia in 1989, he was a member of the University of Chicago’s English department for 14 years, serving as the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities from 1987 to 1989. As a visiting professor, Ferguson taught English at Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton, and law at the University of Chicago and Yale.

Read more at: