October 25, 2011

Law School upgrades to Law and Economics 2.0

A new initiative bridging three divisions of the University promises to pour millions of dollars into exporting Chicago-school law and economics into legal systems around the world.

The new initiative, dubbed Law and Economics 2.0, launched in October from a partnership between the University of Chicago Law School, the Booth School of Business, and the Department of Economics. The new Institute for Law and Economics is the initiative’s centerpiece.

Central to the program are efforts to spread the gospel of law and economics around the world through the new Globalizing Law and Economics Initiative (GLEI), according to the Institute’s inaugural director, Omri Ben-Shahar.

“One of the main things we want to accomplish is to help bring Chicago-style law and economics to legal communities that have not yet benefited from it,” Ben-Shahar said.

Through the GLEI, the Institute will attempt to apply law and economics to international issues like

climate change in regions—like China, India, and Latin America—where the discipline is largely unformed, he said.

“The Law School has always been an empire of law and economics,” Ben-Shahar said. “We want to take this strength and bring it to new heights.”

The initiative also will provide professional legal training for students, establish a joint J.D.-Ph.D program in economics and law, and coordinate research between the Booth School, the Department of Economics, and the Law School.

Each summer, Chinese legal scholars, judges, and lawyers will be invited to campus to study Chicago-style economics and law, Ben-Shahar said.

The Law School has pledged $1 million each year to the initiative, which is also funded by private donors.

Ben-Shahar added that alumni from the Law School, where the field of law and economics has been gestating for years now, were pleased with the new initiative.

“It was, interestingly, a very happy response from alumni of the Law School. In the years since they graduated, they have come to really appreciate more the interdisciplinary field of law and economics,” Ben-Shahar said.

The Institute will not offer a new degree program or program of study at the University, Ben-Shahar said, but is an “administration organization” meant to coordinate research efforts in the field between U of C institutions.

The Institute is also in talks to host a conference where international legal scholars can debate the harmonization of commercial legal systems in Europe.

The Law School announced that 34 professors will join the faculty of the Institute as part of the Law and Economics 2.0 program, and a series of workshops will be offered for students.

One such workshop, on “judicial behavior,” will focus on the way judges reach their decisions on the bench, offering students academic materials and accounts from legal scholars over the course of the year.

Ben-Shahar was the founding director of the Law, Economics, and Technology program at the University of Michigan Law School and has taught at the Law School here since 2008.