NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY NEWS
NEW LAW DEGREE FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PROFESSIONALS
Leaders with technical expertise will be able to innovate better with legal know-how
CHICAGO — Northwestern University School of Law is offering a new Master of Science in Law (MSL), starting in fall 2014, designed specifically for professionals with backgrounds in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and medicine.
STEM professionals are central drivers of today’s global economy, and the new one-year master’s program will support innovation and entrepreneurship by offering these professionals a fundamental understanding of how law and business intersect with technology.
Often using team-based projects, the master’s program will contextualize the complex web of intellectual property, regulatory, business contracting and licensing issues that scientists, engineers, medical practitioners and other STEM professionals around the world face. They will learn within the context of bringing the next new product to market, creating a startup, running a lab or developing a company’s innovation and patent strategy.
The degree is not meant to turn professionals with STEM backgrounds into lawyers. Rather, graduates of the MSL program will be better prepared to do what they do best and focus on the business of innovation and entrepreneurship. The difference is that they will do so with a solid understanding of how law and regulation affects opportunities, constraints, and perspectives on business goals and strategies, both locally and globally.
The MSL classes are entirely new and are specifically designed for STEM professionals. Classes will be taught by renowned Northwestern Law residential faculty and also industry experts from law, business and government, using a creative mix of teaching techniques
“Technical people increasingly have seats at the business table, and more and more of them are being called upon to lead — to sit at the head of the table,” said Emerson Tiller, senior associate dean of academic initiatives at Northwestern’s law school. “The MSL program will give these individuals the skill sets to communicate, direct and lead more effectively across the combined business, legal and regulatory specialties involved in technology-based initiatives.”
The entrepreneurship lab — a hallmark of the program — will expose students to all stages of the innovation process. They will come up with an idea for a business, design a prototype or model of their idea, draft a business plan, address issues of entity selection and intellectual property protection and launch a new business. The entrepreneurship lab will draw upon the law school’s participation in the University’s highly successful NUvention program, which brings together students from all over campus to engage in the entrepreneurship process and to learn from industry leaders and others about the process of design and innovation.
Students will have great flexibility in mapping a course of study in the MSL program, which can be completed in two semesters or part-time in up to eight semesters. They may mix and match from all areas of the curriculum or focus on one of the program’s three concentrations: patent/intellectual property, business law and entrepreneurship or regulatory analysis and strategy.
“In an increasingly interconnected world, where law and regulation is profoundly important, top law schools cannot think of legal training as solely for lawyers,” said Northwestern University School of Law Dean Daniel Rodriguez. “This program illustrates the law school’s ambitious effort to address a growing industry need to build meaningful, practical bridges across the fields of law, business and technology.”
Please join us for the portrait unveiling commemorating the long service and great contributions of my predecessor as dean, David Van Zandt. The event will be held next Friday, November 15, from 4 pm to 6 pm in Lowden Hall in the Levy-Mayer building of the Law School. David’s fifteen-year service as dean, ending in December of 2011, as he moved to New York City to lead The New School as president, was marked by extraordinary innovations and substantial progress. Many of the ambitious plans underway at the Law School, including the improving of our law and business programs, facilitating interdisciplinary teaching and research, and supporting unique programs such as our Accelerated JD and 3-year JD-MBA, build directly on creative foundations established during the period of David’s deanship.
We have put together five valuable working groups to develop initiatives and to map up our objectives, metrics, and implementation steps in order to develop a comprehensive, ambitious strategic plan. Many years we have been saying that we are building the great law school for a changing world, and we have been taking concrete steps to do exactly that. This strategic planning endeavor will give us the foundation and the collective enthusiasm to truly realize these bold goals.
The working groups are: Curriculum, Academic Programs and Initiatives, Student Life, Outreach, and Economics. In the coming weeks, leaders of these groups will be reaching out to myriad stakeholders, including alumni, for input and feedback about the direction of our thinking. Meanwhile, I welcome your views directly. E-mail me with your thoughts.
Our vision is a broad and deep one. We have specific, meaningful goals, both with respect to providing world-class training for our law students and with respect to developing strategies of legal education and public service which contribute to the well-being of the economy and of society. Our strategic plan will be built coherently around the twin goals of educating great lawyers and contributing to the world through our manifest commitments to justice, creative, interdisciplinary research at the highest levels, and the building of bridges across the too-often separate spaces of law, business, and technology. We will leverage existing resources and strengths to build upon our tradition of distinction. And we will also create and innovate. Big plans, focused strategies, hard work, all in the direction of improving our great law school.
With all the usual caveats about the (dis)utilities of rankings, here is an interesting take from the vantage point of corporate directors and officers. That Northwestern Law does well in this ranking (#10) jibes with what we aspire to do and be with respect to the law-business interface.
I had a meeting with a group of prominent chief legal officers (CLOs)in Chicago last week. The topic was “the changing law schools.” We had a good dialogue about the shifting dynamics of the legal market and the reforms underway in law schools.
Much of the focus was on how to operationalize the objective of skills training and practice readiness among our graduates. The agenda of CLOs is slightly different than traditional law firms. They want graduates who have a deep sense of the business operations of the companies for which they work — in particular, the skills to implement business plans through legal advice and counsel and the ability to translate legal information within the organization. Lawyers are often seen by C-suite executives as obstacles as impediments; a skillful legal offices will communicate both the information and also the value of their legal service. In doing so, they will advance — and will be seen as advancing — the business objectives of the corporation.
Among the skills critical for these tasks are teamwork, leadership, and quantitative reasoning. In the “olden” days, these skills might have been see as emerging from undergraduate experience or perhaps business school. Now CLOs are rightly expecting law schools to provide an admixture of these skills. The development of business competencies emerging in leading law schools (in addition to Northwestern, both Chicago and Penn have taken important strides in this regard) is a critical piece of this puzzle.
Despite the emphasis on practical skills in the legal curricula, these CLOs also stressed that they are looking for young lawyers who have foundational, comprehensive legal skills of the sort that ambitious law schools have hard-wired into their curricula. They, too, want law schools to engage in the classic enterprise of training students “to think like lawyers.”
One last observation: CLOs admitted that they were unlikely to turn their attention in any systematic way to hiring new graduates. Their marketplace is typically an early lateral one. They want lawyers who have experience in law firms, experience they can bring to bear in the organizational setting of a general counsel office. Law schools ought not to view this fact as an excuse for ignoring the in-house counsel venue. We should train our students for their early careers, not simply for their first job. And the conversation between CLOs and law schools will become ever more constructive as we think harder about the nexus between law school curricula, core competencies, and the evolving marketplace.
Prof and associate dean Jide Nzelibe wrote this succinct, informative note in response to a query from a distinguished alum who asked “what are NU law profs doing to contribute to vital tax policy debates?” In a separate note, we will profile some of the terrific applied and doctrinal work from professors who work in our esteemed LLM Tax program. This note describes part of what is happening in the international tax policy world:
In terms of hands-on engagement with ongoing tax policy debates, our colleague Charlotte Crane completed a term just over a year ago as the Professor in Residence (2010-2011) at the Office of Chief Counsel of the IRS. The Professor-in-Residence program provides some of the nation’s top legal academicians the opportunity to contribute to the development of legal tax policy and administration. Reporting directly to the IRS Chief Counsel, the Professor in Residence provides advice and assistance on a wide array of legal issues within the scope of his or her expertise. Charlotte herself has also written widely on the problems of defining broad-based taxes and the mechanisms through which these rules evolve.
Your email also raised issues about how tax policy affects the ability of the United States to be competitive in today’s economic environment. Our colleagues have also been at the forefront of these debates as well. For instance, in the past few years, Professors Cameron and Postlewaite have analyzed and critiqued two comprehensive proposals to reform the international tax system. The first proposal would move the current regime closer to an exemption or territorial system and provide that foreign income, whether earned directly or through a foreign subsidiary, would not be subject to United States taxation. Both the 2005 President’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform and the Treasury Department under the Bush Administration proposed reforms that would implement an exemption or territorial system. The second proposal would move the current regime closer to a pure worldwide tax system, sometimes referred to as a “full inclusion” system, under which the foreign income of foreign subsidiaries would be attributed to the United States parent. Postlewaite and Cameron have argued that proposals that dramatically shift the United States international tax system closer to a territorial system or to a full inclusion system are fraught with technical difficulties and uncertainties. But more importantly, they argue, such proposals strain an already polarized political system that must draft and consider such complex legislation. They argue that a more appropriate, and realistic, approach in such a situation is simply to “muddle through” by proposing incremental, rather than fundamental, changes to the status quo that move in the direction of generally agreed upon policy objectives before tackling the more politically difficult issues associated with fundamental reform. But they clarify that one cautionary aspect of incremental, as opposed to comprehensive, tax reform is the risk that an incremental approach may advance only those proposals that are projected to raise government revenue, particularly given the current budgetary constraints that confront the federal government, and that such proposals will be viewed by the legislative process as largely a means to fund other budgetary priorities.
Professor Thomas Brennan has written about the effects of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (AJCA). This legislation granted a tax holiday to U.S. corporations with foreign subsidiaries, allowing the subsidiaries to remit certain funds to their parents at a much lower tax rate than previously possible. Many firms acted during this window of opportunity, and foreign subsidiaries distributed more than $300 billion in qualifying dividends to their U.S. parents. Assuming that a return of foreign earnings to the United States was the sole policy goal, Brennan argues that the AJCA was unarguably a short-term success, as substantial amounts of cash were returned to U.S. parent corporations during the window permitted by the statute. But he also shows that since the holiday window, there has been a dramatic increase in the rate at which firms add to their stockpile of foreign earnings kept overseas. The long-term result has been an aggregate increase in new foreign earnings added to the overseas stockpile that is greater than the amount of funds repatriated pursuant to the holiday. From this perspective, it seems that the AJCA may have been a net failure in achieving the policy goal of returning foreign earnings to the United States.
Professor Dharmapala, visiting at Northwestern from Illinois this semester, has also written about central issues in international tax policy, including empirical studies of the impact of the US international tax regime on US-based multinational firms. One contribution (coauthored with Mihir Desai of Harvard Business School) uses data on international direct and portfolio investment and finds empirical evidence consistent with the idea that the US international tax system disadvantages US-based multinational firms as vehicles for global diversification by shareholders. Like our colleague Tom Brennan, Professor Dharmapala has also analyzed the effects of the American Job Creation Act of 2004, which allowed US-based multinational firms to repatriate foreign earnings at a greatly reduced tax rate during 2005. He has also been invited to speak later this month (October 2013) at a conference of the International Tax Policy Forum, a Washington-based organization that promotes nonpartisan academic research and an informed dialogue on international tax issues. This presentation will focus on the findings of the empirical literature on multinational firms’ responses to taxes, and draw policy lessons relevant to the OECD’s current global initiative on “base erosion and profit shifting.”
Here is the abstract of their paper:
The Effect of Health Insurance on Near-Elderly Health and Mortality
Northwestern University – School of Law ; Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management ; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)
Northwestern University, Department of Economics
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
Northwestern University – School of Law
October 16, 2013
We use the best available longitudinal dataset, the Health and Retirement Survey, and a battery of causal inference methods to provide both central estimates and bounds on the effect of health insurance on health and mortality among the near elderly (initial age 50-61) over an 18-year period. Those uninsured in 1992 consume fewer healthcare services, but are not less healthy and, in our central estimates, do not die sooner than their insured counterparts. We discuss why a zero average effect of uninsurance on mortality and health is plausible, some selection effects that might explain our full results, and methodological concerns with prior studies.
Here is the link to the paper:
“What we have here, son, is a failure to communicate” (Cool Hand Luke)
Had a conversation yesterday with a first-year JD-MBA student, talk turning to our new Master of Science in Law (MSL) program for engineers, scientists, and medical professionals. He noted, from his experience with a family-owned company in the tech sector, the ways in which tech professionals approach their lawyers with a mix of trepidation and cynicism. Lawyers, to paint with a broad brush, are the enemy in the high-tech space. They retard innovation, curtail risk, and limit innovation. Or so are the fears, whether or not expressed, on the part of entrepreneurs who are looking to move their inventions to market, protect their intellectual property, construct a business plan for a unique start up, etc.
This reaction is not baseless. The juxtaposition of the lawyer’s role in counseling and in advocacy and the entrepreneur’s role in managing and taking risks is a complex one. Lawyers are the speed bumps, and sometimes the brakes. And the elaborate web of regulation hard-wired into our modern administrative state undergirds a system in which bold innovation and the rule of law exist in a ubiquitous tension.
That said, there are ways in which the law panic characteristic of many tech professionals is the result of the lack of a common language and a relevant common experience. Our MSL program, and other programs which are likely to emerge along similar lines, aims to combat some of these difficulties. By providing basic, applied legal skills in a law school setting, our program can help address this law panic. It can furnish STEM-trained professionals (or freshly-minted graduates) with the skills and the pertinent vocabulary to interact with lawyers in an environment where constructive communication is essential. To be crystal clear, our aim is not to make STEM professionals into lawyers. We have a great JD program that does that. Rather, our MSL program is made of a curriculum that furnishes the skills valuable to any tech-trained professional who is called upon to navigate and negotiate the complex regulatory jungle, to interface with their own lawyers and lawyers on the other side of the table, and to assist in realizing their own objectives through a foundational, background knowledge in legal principles.
Law panic creates what economists would rightly label transaction costs. It imposes obstacles between lawyers and their clients; it introduces noise into the channels of communication that are essential to move constructive ideas forward and to realize economically fruitful objectives. Careful attention should be paid, as with our program, to the sources and reasons for this disconnect; and creative solutions to this predicament is a worthwhile contribution to the well-being of not only the technology sector, but to economic progress more generally.