Professors Brinig and Kelly Launch New Program in Law & Economics

Author: Susan Good

Dan Kelly Peg Brinig story

This fall Notre Dame Law School is launching a new interdisciplinary initiative, the Notre Dame Law and Economics (NDL&E) Program. NDL&E is dedicated to encouraging interdisciplinary research, scholarship, and collaboration on legal issues, particularly in the areas of law and economics, law and the social sciences, and law and business. The co-directors of the program, Professor Margaret Brinig and Professor Daniel Kelly, are enthused about the activities already underway, events currently planned, and possibilities for the future.

The cornerstone of the NDL&E Program is the Law and Economics Seminar, an innovative course that Professors Brinig and Kelly are co-teaching this fall. The seminar provides students with an introduction to the economic analysis of law, including an overview of topics like cost-benefit analysis, empirical methods, and public choice theory. In addition, many of the seminar sessions involve workshop presentations in which invited speakers—from Notre Dame Law School, other departments at Notre Dame, and other law schools and universities—deliver working papers and the enrolled students, as well as interested faculty members, have the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments.

The workshop format provides an opportunity for students to engage with leading experts working on seminal research in a variety of fields, analyze scholarly work as it is being created and revised, and contribute meaningfully to some of today’s most pressing legal and policy debates. Professor Kelly, who has participated in similar workshops elsewhere, says: “One of the primary factors that contributes to a successful workshop is the active engagement of the students. Based on this criterion, the NDL&E workshop is off to a very good start, with high enrollment in the course and lively participation during our classes and workshops.”

The NDL&E Program is also hosting a symposium on Friday, September 17, 2010, from 2-5 p.m. in 1140 Eck Hall of Law. The symposium, Housing: Law & Policy, is part of the Garvey Lecture Series and will feature two prominent scholars in property law and urban policy: Robert C. Ellickson, the Walter E. Meyer Professor of Property and Urban Law at Yale Law School, and Edward L. Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, Harvard University.

Professor Nicole Garnett of Notre Dame Law School and Professor Glaeser will comment on Professor Ellickson’s paper: “Legal Constraints on Household Moves: Should Footloose Americans Envy the Rooted French?” Professor William Evans of the Notre Dame Economics Department and Professor Ellickson will comment on Professor Glaeser’s paper: “Can Cheap Credit Explain the Housing Boom?” Additional faculty from the law school, department of economics, and other colleges and departments, as well as students in the Law and Economics Seminar and Professor Garnett’s Land Use Planning course, are expected to attend and participate.

In planning the NDL&E symposium, Professors Brinig and Kelly hope to build on their success in organizing the annual meeting of the Midwestern Law and Economics Association (MLEA). That conference, which Notre Dame hosted in the fall of 2009, involved nearly 50 participants on 14 panels, including more than a dozen Notre Dame Law faculty members who participated as speakers, moderators, and contributors.

Professor Brinig holds both a J.D. degree and a Ph.D. in economics and was one of the founding members of MLEA. When asked to explain the importance of the type of interdisciplinary research that NDL&E seeks to promote, she said: “Increasingly, lawyers need to be able to read and speak multiple languages—the language of law and some other discipline. The most profound legal academic work gets lost if no one in other disciplines reads it. One way for both the graduates we produce and for those of us who teach law to become more effective is to be able to analyze and converse about what others have found and written, whether they are lawyers or not.”

As a result, when Dean Nell Newton solicited proposals for new interdisciplinary programs, Brinig and Kelly jumped at the opportunity. “We are very grateful to Dean Newton,” says Professor Kelly, “for approving, providing the initial funding for, and continuing to support several new programs, including the program in law and economics”. In addition to the NDL&E Program, these new initiatives include the Program on Church, State, and Society; the Program in Constitutional Structure and Design; the Program on Interdisciplinary Family Law Mediation; and the Program in Law, Globalization, and Human Development.

Going forward, Professors Brinig and Kelly see a tremendous opportunity to develop and expand the NDL&E Program. Like other law-and-econ programs, Brinig and Kelly aspire to encourage the presentation of the best theoretical and empirical work from a wide range of scholars. They also are hopeful NDL&E will assist in promoting interdisciplinary research and relationships, both among faculty members and students in various departments at Notre Dame and between Notre Dame and other universities.

But there is another reason for their optimism and their enthusiasm. Notre Dame Law School has the opportunity to create a seminar and program distinct from any other law and economics endeavor in the country. Indeed, the Law and Economics Seminar and the NDL&E Program seek to permit a robust and uninhibited inquiry into issues that are often overlooked or simply ignored. To this end, NDL&E aims to examine subjects and problems traditionally underrepresented in the field. It also hopes to explore fundamental questions about welfare, morality, and the law, including the underlying assumptions of the economic analysis of law and the ultimate implications of welfare economics for the happiness of individuals and the common good of society.

For additional information about law and economics at Notre Dame, please visit the NDL&E website.

About the Directors

Margaret F. Brinig is the Fritz Duda Family Chair in Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at Notre Dame Law School. Her primary research and writing field is the law and economics of the family, and she is especially interested in empirical answers to questions addressed by law. Brinig has written more than 70 articles and book chapters and has worked with coauthors in law, economics, sociology, medicine and public health from all over the United States and from Canada. Among her recent publications is Family, Law, and Community: Supporting the Covenant (University of Chicago Press 2010), a sequel to her earlier book From Contract to Covenant: Beyond the Law and Economics of the Family (Harvard University Press 2000). She referees for numerous journals and presses in law and economics including the American Law and Economics Review, Journal of Legal Studies, and Yale University Press. For more on Professor Brinig, visit her faculty profile web page.

Daniel B. Kelly is an Associate Professor of Law and the Robert and Marion Short Scholar at Notre Dame Law School. His primary research and writing field is the economic analysis of property law, and he is particularly interested in the theoretical analysis of takings, externalities, and opportunistic behavior. Kelly has published articles in journals such as the Cornell Law Review, Harvard Law Review Forum, and Supreme Court Economic Review and has presented papers in various conferences and workshops including the American Law and Economics Association Annual Meeting, Harvard and Stanford Law and Economics Seminars, and Stanford-Yale Junior Faculty Forum. He also has served as a referee for the American Law and Economics Review, Journal of Legal Analysis, and Yale University Press. For more on Professor Kelly, visit his faculty profile web page.