The University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law is launching a new QuantLaw program, focusing on the emerging field at the intersection of law and the data revolution.
The program began when several faculty members noticed that the college is unusually strong in terms of faculty involved in data-driven research and applying quantitative and statistical methods to their research. Also with a high number of courses already in the realm of "quantlaw," the law school formalized its strengths into a program, launching in October, said associate law professor Jane Bambauer.
"Students are quite curious. They're curious about the risks of having all this data out there. We have another subset of students who are very excited about this new data-rich era," Bambauer said. "Because there are very compelling reasons to both be wary of data and to celebrate it, this topic is very fascinating to students."
Bambauer, whose research addresses the social costs and benefits of data, particularly as it affects personal privacy, says the QuantLaw Program has three major components – teaching, research and law practice.
Additional courses are being added with specific emphasis on the way legal practices are adapting to deal with mass data. All law students will have an opportunity to conduct individual empirical research and more outside speakers will cover data-related topics.
"One thing that makes our program different is we want to make sure every student has some comfort with using data because modern practice requires all lawyers to have some comfort with data," Bambauer said. "A lot of students enter law school thinking they'll never have to look at another spreadsheet again. Because that isn't the case, we try to weave some of the training in these types of statistical methods into our more traditional courses."
The law that regulates the use of data is largely unsettled. Most laws regarding privacy, trade secrets or even national security have not caught up to the modern flood of data, Bambauer said.
"One of the biggest challenges for lawyers and their clients is that we have entered this era where it's quite standard for any business, no matter what service or good is produced, to collect a whole lot of data and use it to its advantage. Students are surprised to see how many gaps there are in the law," Bambauer said.
Career paths for lawyers specially trained in QuantLaw will be extensive, Bambauer said, and both companies and government will come to rely on good legal advice in regard to data policies.
"Our understanding of what the legal expectations and legal requirements are is very much up in the air," she said. "There is law, there are some statutes and there are some case precedents out there, but this is an area that will be of utmost importance to companies and that's what they need good lawyers to do, to determine what these risks are."