We are thrilled to present a discussion of the Law–STEM intersection in this special project of the Northwestern Law Review Online (NULR Online). This project arose as part of a conference held at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in October 2016: Bridges II: The Law–STEM Alliance & Next Generation Innovation. After a robust conference that focused on the role of different disciplines in the innovation process, a group of scholars (mostly legal scholars who do interdisciplinary work) convened informally to discuss ways to foster interdisciplinary innovation and to overcome barriers to collaboration between legal and STEM professionals. We had such an interesting discussion that we decided to ask participants to submit written answers to questions discussed at that session. We provided five questions to the participants. Participants answered either a subset of the questions or wrote essays responding to the questions as a whole. The questions are:

  1. How do views on rewards and burdens differ between the law and STEM fields in academia? (Consider administrative differences, requirements for tenure, different emphasis on types of publications v. conference proceedings, etc.)
  2. How do lawyers think differently from STEM professionals when approaching problems and risk?
  3. What incentives would foster more collaboration between the law and STEM fields, in either academic or business/entrepreneurial settings?
  4. Provide an example of a situation in which a Law–STEM collaboration aided a project or where the lack of collaboration between these two disciplines impeded a project.
  5. Technological change recently has altered business models in the legal field, and these changes will continue to affect the practice of law itself. How can we, as educators, prepare law students to meet the challenges of new technology throughout their careers?

We are grateful to the Northwestern Law Review Online for providing us the forum to disseminate this information. This project is part of a larger effort at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law to focus on the intersection of Law and STEM. The “Bridges” conferences (starting with Bridges I & II and continuing with Bridges III in April, 2018, focusing on Law & Computation) have been an important aspect of our efforts, and there are many others. Four years ago, we introduced the Master of Science in Law (MSL) program, an interdisciplinary master’s degree designed to prepare STEM professionals to address the multi-faceted legal and regulatory issues they are facing in today’s STEM-centric economy. As of this Fall, the MSL program will have enrolled over 200 students, from a variety of science and engineering backgrounds – bench scientists, technology managers, researchers, entrepreneurs, post-docs in various STEM fields, medical professionals, etc. We also co-hosted (with Penn Law and Stanford Law) an inaugural forum for young scholars working at the Law–STEM intersection in October, 2017. We have collaborated with faculty from Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering to increase cross-disciplinary understanding and develop curricular initiatives. And there is a lot more to come—stay tuned.

Dave Schwartz & Leslie Oster

We hope that you enjoy the take-aways and insights from this project and that they spur further discussion and collaboration of this all-important intersection.

Editing and revision by Katherine Funderburg, Margaret Houseknecht, Eric Schanowski, Tony Traina, Jordan Blain, Sarah Loiselle, and Thomas H. Rousse.