New Paper in “Science” Describes How to Bring Tools of Complexity Science to Bear on Improving Law

Cover of the March 31, 2017, issue of Science. Photo: Jim Richardson, National Geographic Creative

In a paper that appeared in the March 31 issue of Science, Vanderbilt law professor J. B. Ruhl, Chicago-Kent College of Law Professor Daniel Martin Katz, and Chicago-Kent College of Law researcher Michael J. Bommarito II proposed that the legal profession apply the tools of complexity science to help improve legal systems.

Just as regulatory systems are complex adaptive systems (CAS) as defined by complexity scientists, so are legal systems, assert the authors. Legal systems incorporate hallmark elements of CAS, including diverse institutions (legislatures, agencies, courts), norms (due process, equality, fairness), actors (legislators, bureaucrats, judges) and instruments (regulations, injunctions, taxes), linked through dense interconnections.

The authors outline a research agenda to map CAS concepts onto the legal system, applying the tools of complexity science to measure, monitor, and manage elements of the system from the U.S. Code and Code of Federal Regulations to day-to-day legal tasks. Their agenda calls for four facets of research: data acquisition, data structuring, building practical applications, and learning.

Legal complexity is a growing challenge in our modern society and this new paper outlines a research agenda designed to confront the challenge. Katz noted, “This is an important step for The Law Lab @ Illinois Tech – Chicago Kent College of Law as it demonstrates our commitment to using the tools of science to make the law better.”

This paper is particularly noteworthy as papers from the legal academy are rarely published in Science.

Katz is a scientist, technologist, and legal scholar who applies an innovative polytechnic approach to teaching law. Both his scholarship and teaching integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. He teaches Civil Procedure, E-Discovery, Legal Analytics and Practice & Professionalism at Chicago-Kent and spearheads new initiatives to teach law students how to leverage technology and entrepreneurship in their future legal careers.

Bommarito is head of research at The Law Lab @ Chicago-Kent, a premier, interdisciplinary teaching and research center focused on legal innovation and technology.