Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

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Slytherpuff
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Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by Slytherpuff » Wed Dec 04, 2019 1:57 pm

Welcome to LSL! What questions do you have about law school, the application process, the legal profession, etc.? We can either answer them in here or direct you to a thread/poster who can help you out.

app
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by app » Fri Dec 06, 2019 8:49 pm

* please don't quote

As a sw engineer with a FT job, is it possible to do some independent research work/activity with a law professor with a focus on tech/law over a short duration (6-8 weeks period) without having any ties to the university/school?
how could one cold-approach a professor for such an endeavor? would one have to be formally affiliated in some way (like registration in some way) to the school to pursue this?

one of the hys and a t14 is located near where i live. but may be a TT located nearby would let a generic sw engineer do this instead of one of the trinities.

please don't quote
Last edited by app on Sun Dec 08, 2019 11:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Nony
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by Nony » Fri Dec 06, 2019 11:26 pm

I don't think there's anything requiring you to have a connection to the school - profs can collaborate with whomever they choose - but without some kind of connection to the prof or really specific skill/developed research agenda, it's not clear that a prof necessarily would be interested. You would really have to find someone with a very specific research agenda for whom your background actually adds something they don't have on their own, and I'm not sure 6-8 weeks would really be productive; it doesn't seem like enough time to complete a project that would be worth the prof's while. But maybe I don't understand what kind of research/work you want to do and why?

The ideal approach would be to have someone who can vouch for your abilities approach a prof for you, so ideally someone who knows the prof. You can just cold e-mail profs about potential collaboration, but you'd really need to make clear what's in it for the prof (ideally a publication/conference presentation). As a sw engineer you may well have skills that are helpful/necessary for someone, but you'd need to identify someone whose research needs your abilities, rather than assume a prof will want to collaborate only to support your research, if that makes any sense.

app
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by app » Sun Dec 08, 2019 6:29 pm

i was wondering what research in law actually involves in terms of steps involved in taking something from an early idea to a publication? e.g. is it mainly scouring the case law, precedents with some analysis of new issues identified? what journals one could target without being a law student?

from what i could find online they don't seem to be not long ~4000 words for this case at hlr https://harvardlawreview.org/2019/11/vi ... hune-hill/

app
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by app » Sun Dec 08, 2019 6:41 pm

i guess if i put 8hrs per weekend then it could be ~150 hrs in 4 months.

does the focus of a publication/research collaboration with a prof have to be narrower than like, an issue related to upcoming machine intelligence tech and how it may lead to social issues or legal pitfalls? it sounds very broad to me to be of any specific value as original research. so what could possibly be example of original research that can contribute to say, machine intelligence and surrounding legal issues?

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Nony
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by Nony » Sun Dec 08, 2019 7:37 pm

app wrote:
Sun Dec 08, 2019 6:29 pm
i was wondering what research in law actually involves in terms of steps involved in taking something from an early idea to a publication? e.g. is it mainly scouring the case law, precedents with some analysis of new issues identified? what journals one could target without being a law student?

from what i could find online they don't seem to be not long ~4000 words for this case at hlr https://harvardlawreview.org/2019/11/vi ... hune-hill/
So that's a case note, which isn't really the same as original research. It's basically a report on a new case and its significance, which requires legal research, but isn't quite the same as an original research article, which is more making an original argument. Not all journals really do case notes in this format, and journals that do produce them have their student members do them (they're not signed, you'll notice). Articles are generally quite a bit longer - if you go to various law reviews' web sites, they usually list the criteria for submissions. HLR states, "The Review strongly prefers articles under 25,000 words in length — the equivalent of 50 law review pages — including text and footnotes. Length in excess of 30,000 words — the equivalent of 60 law review pages — will weigh significantly against selection." So obviously if they're telling people not to exceed 30k words, most articles aren't 4000 words.

There are lots of possible ways to research legal issues. You can do a case note kind of thing, where you take a new case, explain what it says, how it does/doesn't alter previous case law, and the problems it poses (i.e. did the court get it right and why). You can take more of a general concept (like the categorical approach discussed in this comment https://harvardlawreview.org/2019/11/th ... entencing/) and look at what it means, how it developed over time, what its purpose was, does it fulfill its purpose, are there problems with it, how should it be changed. You can do some kind of empirical analysis (basically counting stuff, as far as I can tell) of how a law has been enforced. Basically, there are a lot of articles that are "here's how this particular legal concept plays out in practice, here are the problems with it, and here's how it could work better."
does the focus of a publication/research collaboration with a prof have to be narrower than like, an issue related to upcoming machine intelligence tech and how it may lead to social issues or legal pitfalls? it sounds very broad to me to be of any specific value as original research. so what could possibly be example of original research that can contribute to say, machine intelligence and surrounding legal issues?
No, it sounds to me like this would probably be specific enough, assuming there's a particular specific development in machine intelligence tech that you've identified and can talk about with some concrete detail. You'd need to 1) look at other research out there about machine intelligence tech and synthesize what it says, 2) figure out if your machine intelligence tech is different from what's already been discussed, and if so, how that affects your approach (have people already identified all the legal/social pitfalls you see from your tech? if they have, is it useful to talk about how your specific tech leads to the same pitfalls? do you see new pitfalls? do those new pitfalls suggest that other writers have got things wrong?) 3) figure out what specific legal regimes are implicated and what should be done (I don't know enough about the tech in question even to speculate here, but if the issue is that, say, it infringes on your privacy, what privacy laws are out there and how do they not address this? how should they be changed to address the pitfalls you foresee? Tech-adjacent example is ongoing debates about how what process the government should have to use to access personal tech devices given how much technology has changed and how fast it changes and how privacy law doesn't keep up with ). Given that you're not a lawyer, probably what you'd want to do is find someone who's writing about the legal side of things (you're very unlikely to get that right on your own, but lawyers are often also unlikely to get the tech exactly right).

app
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by app » Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:03 pm

so can practitioners or academics not affiliated with the university that owns the journal eligible to apply for publication and when they do have a case note they worked on do they send it to all journals to apply broadly or target a specific one?

also, are there only 2-3 articles per hlr issue? it seems only comments/essay are long enough to be that in nov2019 edition.

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Nony
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by Nony » Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:27 pm

Yes. If you look at the issues linked at the bottom of the HLR page, you'll see that there are 1-3 articles or essays (by faculty) per issue, then one or two "notes" (which are articles but by student members of the HLR), then various "leading cases" or "recent cases" or "recent legislation" or such (even sometimes book reviews).

HLR isn't that typical - most law reviews I've seen publish 3-4 faculty articles and a couple of student comments and don't include all the commentary on recent developments. Sometimes there are more specialized formats, like if the journal sponsors a conference and you get a bunch of shorter pieces by the conference participants, and those will be themed (like a SCOTUS justice dies/steps down, you'll tend to see themed issues talking about their influence, or the anniversary of a major law like the EPA, or something in response to current events, like now you might see stuff about immigration or impeachment).

I really don't think HLR is the place to be aiming for. Law reviews are ranked just like schools are (although it's a little more complicated because there are also specialized journals). Law reviews get hundreds and hundreds of submissions (the barrier for submission is low). Although in theory Harvard does blind review of articles, look up the affiliations of the authors of the articles. They're all very accomplished.

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Nony
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by Nony » Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:38 pm

app wrote:
Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:03 pm
so can practitioners or academics not affiliated with the university that owns the journal eligible to apply for publication and when they do have a case note they worked on do they send it to all journals to apply broadly or target a specific one?
missed this bit earlier. Yes, practitioners/academics not affiliated with the journal's school can submit for publication. (In fact, a lot of schools would rather not publish their own faculty because they don't want it to look like you can get published in it just because you work there.) It's only student notes that are reserved for students from the school. (Some journals will also publish student work, as regular articles not comments, but it's not that common.)

To be pedantic about terminology, you would likely not be submitting a case note. A "note" (or a "comment") is a student work (I think originally they were all focused on specific cases as in the HLR "recent cases" model, but that's no longer the case). You would be submitting an article, although a variety of article could be a case note, if you were writing specifically about one case only. I think those are tricky because if a case is new, everyone and their dog will be jumping on the "write about Case X" bandwagon and it will be difficult to stand out/add some unique insight, and if it's not new, likely no one will care.

There's an online submission system called ExpressO that makes it easy to blast a gazillion journals with your article, and that's generally the way you have to go (that said, there's a fee for individuals not affiliated with an institution; law schools can buy annual subscriptions to cover their faculty's submission costs). They have info about the process here https://www.bepress.com/products/expresso/authors/.

Eugene Volokh has a book about writing for law reviews that goes into a lot of this stuff.

app
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by app » Mon Dec 09, 2019 11:48 pm

*please don't quote

would profs generally be open to ~150 hr investment type of commitment over 4-5 months? regarding approaching profs for possible 'collaboration', i guess being clear about publication is good but hard to do without direction from the prof. from what i've gathered prof would most likely not see me as a true collaborator or co-author, but only as a helper where in case something like this leads to a presentation/pub, only the prof would show as the author. how true is that? co-authorship is not most important to me ofc but one of the aims clearly is to get some academic research exposure and prof's rec for future work elsewhere, but i'm unclear if a prof would see that as being useful enough for future support.

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Nony
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by Nony » Tue Dec 10, 2019 12:22 am

I have no idea if profs would be open to that kind of hours commitment, honestly. It probably depends on how close it is to their area of research and what else they have going on and how long they think would be necessary to come up with an article (I tend to think it would be longer but I come from different disciplinary training so I’m not sure how accurate I am). I think part of my issue is that it’s hard to know how long something like this would take without knowing what background you/the prof have and how much groundwork will need to be laid.

I also actually think there’s strong potential for co-authorship because in this context you wouldn’t be a student assistant, you’d be contributing (at least in theory) material on which you’re an expert. I know of profs doing co-authorship with students where the students have actually worked on the writing/contributed significantly to the argument (a lot of student assistants do cite-checking or maybe summarizing of material for the prof to write about).

I think the way to start is not so much by offering yourself as labor but contacting a prof who does research relevant to your subject, say that you’re a non-law professional (whatever best describes you professionally) who thinks that new tech X has significant implications for legal field Y, and ask if they have time either to discuss that with you or point you in the direction of resources you can use to better understand the legal side of things. If they’ll talk to you, then talk about what you’re thinking about. If they give you resources, read them. Think about what they say and ask if the prof will answer more questions. Or draft a paper and ask the prof to read it.

To be clear, some, maybe most profs will have no interest whatsoever. But some might. It’s really going to be a question of finding the prof who does the most related kind of work, and making clear to them what expertise you can offer. Not in the sense of “I will work for you,” more along the lines of “you are interested in this thing and I have a different understanding of this thing and we might want to talk.”

I’m not sure if this makes much sense - it’s hard to say without knowing what research you want to do (obviously you don’t have to say any more detail but if you have an actual article idea developed that’s much more fruitful than “I would like to work with you to come up with an article” but I’m not sure which applies to you.)

Really if you can find some connection to introduce you that’s the absolute best way to do this.

(Also, why do you want academic research exposure? The JD is a professional degree and isn’t actually very good at all at teaching you to do academic research and write academic articles.)

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icechicken
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by icechicken » Tue Dec 10, 2019 1:28 pm

Agree broadly with Nony.

There's a bit of a catch-22 here in that a most law professors won't understand or care much about X topic (be it cybersecurity, or Brazilian politics, or linguistics, etc.), and the ones that do care will tend to have terminal degrees (or close) in that topic and don't need a SME to come in and help them write their article.

The shortcut would probably be a master's degree (or a fellowship, if you can somehow swing it) at a university that has strong faculty in X along with a law school. Get your professors to introduce you to any law faculty they know, or just cold-open with the benefit of a local .edu email. But that's a lot of money and time spent if all you want to do is maybe work as a RA on one LR article.

app
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by app » Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:33 am

*please don't quote

i don't think i know anyone who can introduce me to prof. being in workforce of tech industry for a long time can be like a silo. i'm thinking of academia so want to get research exposure prior.
i was considering using my work-email to cold-email profs so it's not ignored right away. but doing that is risky, it can get logged in company system and don't want that to happen. another idea that i'm leaning toward is: prepare a write up of like 1 page of an initial idea to discuss and then go to local TTT law school office during weekday and see which profs are available to talk in the faculty lounge in person. that way i could cut loss and wouldn't get my hopes up in case no interest. would that be too direct?

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Nony
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by Nony » Fri Dec 13, 2019 7:26 am

I don’t think showing up to talk to profs in person is the way to go, no. There isn’t really a culture of a “faculty lounge” where profs hang out collectively and it would be really weird just to show up in person. (Profs have office hours so in theory you could show up to a specific prof’s office at that time, but it would still be a little weird as you’re not a current student.) If you don’t want to email, you could cold call to chat or set up a specific appointment, which is still a little intrusive but better than showing up in person out of the blue. But I’d just make a Gmail account and use that if you don’t want to email from work. I don’t think the address is going to make the difference between being ignored or not.

The thing is that if you have a specific research idea, I don’t think you want to talk to random profs, you want to research who’s doing work relevant to your topic of interest and target specific people. If your topic involves (say) privacy rights and technology, you don’t want to talk to someone who does criminal procedure or wills and trusts.

Or I suppose the alternative is to approach it much more broadly and just say what you’ve said here - I’m interested in academia and want guidance on how the research process works. That’s much more an “any prof” question and maybe is more appropriate to your current stage. You could ask the admissions people at your local school if they can recommend a prof to talk to you, maybe. (If you pretend you might go there they might be willing to help you.) The result of this likely wouldn’t be working for that prof, though, it would be an informational meeting giving you some next steps. Which might actually be more helpful at this stage (I have a lot of familiarity with academia generally but am not a law prof, so their info will be much more pertinent). You may or may not find someone willing to help - it will really depend on the prof and how they feel about that kind of outreach.

Basically, you can approach this one of two ways: as an expert in a relevant field who is looking to collaborate and ideally work on a publication (which is how I initially approached it, but respectfully, it doesn't really sound like you have the academic research background for this to work?); or as an 0L trying to get information about the research process as you consider law school, which is totally good and will give you useful information, but is unlikely to get you direct experience working with a prof on legal research.

Also read Volokh’s book. (Its actual title is Academic Legal Writing.)

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icechicken
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by icechicken » Sat Dec 14, 2019 8:46 pm

Your concern about work email brings something else worth considering to mind: if you produce IP for a living, like most programmers, you might have issues with your employer if you publish original research on your own that draws on things you learned on the job. Engineers run into this frequently when they, for instance, want to patent something they invented on their own.

app
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by app » Sun Dec 15, 2019 1:02 am

*please don't quote

yeah, IP issues can be very tricky but i don't plan to let work know about it or use ideas that are developed from work. i intend research to be related to generic ideas about machine learning (that are already in the public domain).

related to cold emailing profs, i put together a short draft email essentially asking a prof if he's interested. it just touches upon the general idea in 2-3 broad sentences, basically to get them to want to meet and discuss if at all possible. Ok enough for a cold-email?

----
Professor name,
I came across your profile when reading about <center> at <X law school>(website link). I’m a Software Engineer currently working at C, in their machine learning tech at city-z.

I was researching issues pertaining to the challenges machine-learning/AI technologies pose to the existing legal frameworks. For example, this includes research on the peculiarities of AI technologies that make them unique in the legal context and how they impact social inequalities.

My goal is to work on researching and developing these ideas eventually for a publication, utilizing my experience in various facets of technology industry as well as in cutting-edge AI at C. I have tech background for it, but I lack the appropriate legal perspective required.

Does this fall into the domain of your research? If so, would you be interested to discuss any research work you are doing related to this?
It’d be very valuable to meet you at X if you're available some time to discuss it.
-----

please don't quote

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Nony
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by Nony » Sun Dec 15, 2019 9:52 am

Overall I think it's fine. To be nitpicky, a few things:

I think the second line in the second paragraph should be more specific. (I understand if you've left out details for the purpose of posting it here.) Being more specific about what kinds of legal issues and social inequalities are implicated would be helpful.

I would also give them the option to talk on the phone rather than jump to meeting f2f.

Finally, I would not ask them to discuss their research work with you in quite that way - it makes it sound like you want them to give you info that they haven't published yet, which sounds dodgy. I would ask to discuss possible research directions or guidance or such.

app
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by app » Sun Dec 15, 2019 6:12 pm

i was looking at this https://www.georgetowntech.org/writingcompetition just to make the abstract idea of a publication more real to conjure, to have something to talk about with potential collaborators, and have something of a rough deadline, until i found that these are open only to law students.

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icechicken
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by icechicken » Mon Dec 16, 2019 1:14 pm

Yeah, the academy is annoyingly paywalled like that: it's a lot easier to participate as an active student/professor.

app
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Re: Welcome, lurkers - what questions do you have?

Post by app » Tue Dec 17, 2019 1:32 am

any competitions like the above link i posted where one could give it a shot even if not a law student? i really liked that it wasn't too long, only 4000-7500 words (not including footnotes).

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