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Law’s Futures: Renewing an Invitation


Just about two years ago, I posted a series of provocations that I titled, modestly, “An Invitation Regarding Law, Legal Education, and Imagining the Future.” You can read them as blog posts here. I later collected the posts, polished them, and posted the entire thing to SSRN, as an essay.

It’s time to prime the pump.

The basic themes of the invitation were and are three:

  • One, the challenges and opportunities that beset/confront legal education are merely species of broader challenges and opportunities that beset/confront higher education.
  • Two, different legal education “reform” conversations are unhelpfully siloed from one another, divided among perspectives, themes, and priorities including legal ed/legal profession officialdom; affordability and access concerns; clinical and other experiential education; legaltech; the future of research and scholarship; sustainable financial models for educational institutions; and diversity and inclusion, among others.
  • Three, we are long since past the time when law review symposia and conference papers are the right or best ways to advance new ideas about change and the future, both locally and systemically. Incremental advances and documenting ideas are both excellent strategies, but there are more, bigger things to do.

The “invitation” was a gentle name for a call for volunteers, people looking for ways to put bigger, broader, synthetic, futuristic ideas into motion.

My late December timing was deliberate. I wanted to attract a little attention right as many of my fellow law professors were preparing to travel to San Diego for the 2019 AALS Annual Meeting.

I’m posting today to renew that invitation, this time just as many of my fellow law professors are preparing travel to Washington, DC for the 2020 AALS AM. That invitation has had an interesting and productive life since December 2018, and I’m hoping that it gets even more interesting and productive in the future. I’ll be at the Marriott Wardman Park for the entirety of the upcoming meeting. If you’re there, want to know more, and maybe even get involved, please find me online or in person.*

Here’s a quick summary of the last couple of years, post-invitation:

  • Dan Rodriguez (Northwestern Law) organized an online symposium at Prawfsblawg, using the invitation as a starting point, that included commentary from around the world. The best way to access the contents of the symposium is via this link.
  • Dan Hunter (then Swinburne (Melbourne) and now QUT (Brisbane)) and I launched a related podcast called, creatively, The Future Law Podcast. That went live a year ago, and for the last 12 months we were joined as co-hosts by the terrific Lisa Leong, a Melbourne-based lawyer/entrepreneur/media personality. Lisa is now off on other adventures, but Dan and I will be carrying on into Year 2.
  • With Dan Rodriguez and Hiram Chodosh (Claremont McKenna College), I have helped to organize and host a pair of informal in-person roundtables that we call “Law’s Futures.” We didn’t put out a public call for participation; these were not panel-presentations-plus-commentary conferences. Instead, we snowballed our way to groups of people inspired by the idea of an open conversation among people with different perspectives; we had day-long, free-wheeling brainstorming sessions.
  • I built a website to house all of the above and named it “Future Law Works.” You can find it at That is, you can read about things such as they are, because everything is preliminary and provisional. The logo at the top of this post, and the logo at the top of the posts here from the last several months, is the logo that I created to give a tiny bit of visual pop to that site and to the things that go with it. The logo also goes with the @futurelawworks Twitter handle.

There is more to come under the “Future Law Works” and “Law’s Futures” banners – more events, more ideas, more action, more participation. There has been a pilot quality to the last couple of years, and there has been a “think tank” quality as well. Is it time to step the action up a notch? To expand the circle of participation and inclusion? To start acting as ambitiously as we’ve been imagining?

* On Saturday morning, January 5, I’ll buy coffee and a bagel for anyone at AALS who wants to stop by the “Stone’s Throw” restaurant in the lobby of the Marriott Wardman Park between 7 am and 8:30 am to talk about this. No agenda, just chatting about shared interests.