February 20, 2018

Archives for April 2009

Fascinating New Blog: ComputationalLegalStudies.com

I was inspired to post the essay I discussed in the prior post by the debut of the best new law blog I have seen in a long time, Computational Legal Studies, featuring the work of Daniel Katz and Michael Bommarito, both graduate students in the University of Michigan’s political science department.

Every single blog they have posted has caused me to smack my head once for not having thought of the idea first, and a second time for not having their datasets and skillz. Their visualization of who has gotten TARP funds and how they’re connected to legislators deserves to be printed on posters and hung up in newsrooms across the country (not to mention in offices on Capitol Hill). They’ve also shown good taste by building a bridge to this blog, linking favorably back to the great CITP work led by David Robinson on government openness.

I will have more to say about Dan and Mike’s new blog in the weeks and months to come, but for now it is enough to welcome them to the blogosphere.

Computer Programming and the Law: A New Research Agenda

By my best estimate, at least twenty different law professors on the tenure track at American law schools once held a job as a professional computer programmer. I am proud to say that two of us work at my law school.

Most of these hyphenate lawprof-coders rarely write any code today, and this is a shame. There are many good reasons why the world would be a better place if we began to integrate computer programming into legal scholarship (and more generally, into law and policy).

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post for a lawprof blog exploring this idea. I promised a follow-up post, but never delivered. A year later, I expanded the idea into an essay, which the good people at the Villanova Law Review agreed to publish sometime later this year. With this post, I am releasing a slightly-outdated draft of the essay for the first time to the public. You can download it at SSRN.

In the abstract, I say:

This essay proposes a new interdisciplinary research agenda called Computer Programming and the Law. By harnessing the power of computer programming, legal scholars can develop better tools, data, and insights for advancing their research interests. This essay presents the case for this new research agenda, highlights some examples of those who have begun to blaze the trail, and includes code samples to demonstrate the power and potential of developing software for legal scholarship. The code samples in this essay can be run like a piece of software—thanks to a technique known as literate programming—making this the world’s first law review article that is also a working computer program.

If you have any interest in the intersection of technology and policy (in other words, if you read this blog), please read the essay and let me know what you think. Unlike many law review articles, this one is short. And how bad could it be? It contains 350 lines of perl! (Wait, don’t answer that!)