At the outset of formal legal education, legal scholarship was largely doctrinal. Then, in the wake of legal realism, a second era emerged, with legal scholars more focused on policy than theory. During the late 20th century, there was a sharp turn toward theory. This third wave of legal scholarship was marked by increased interdisciplinary scholarship and diversity in the academy as well as growing relationships within universities. We are now in a new era of legal scholarship — Version 4.0. This conference, hosted by Northeastern University School of Law, explored the future of legal scholarship through conversations among leading legal scholars. Keynote speakers: Patricia Williams, Columbia Law School, and Noah Feldman, Harvard Law School.

Call for Papers

To accompany panels discussing the goals and methods of legal scholarship 4.0, junior scholars (those who have spent seven years or fewer as a full-time law professor) were invited to share their works-in-progress as examples of the new legal scholarship.

Break-out works-in-progress sessions included a comment on each paper by senior faculty, and discussion by fellow panelists and conference participants. Conversations continued throughout the conference at breakfast and lunch (provided), as well as during the speakers’ dinner. 

Conference Schedule*

Friday, March 14, 2014

8:30 AM

Conference Registration 

9:00 AM


Dean Jeremy Paul, Northeastern University School of Law

9:15 AM

Remarks and Introduction of Plenary Speaker 1 
James Hackney, Northeastern University 

9:30 AM

Plenary 1
Speaker: Patricia Williams, Columbia University

10:30 AM

Break (15 minutes)

10:45 AM

Panel 1
Legal Scholarship Employing Theory: Centripetal to Centrifugal

Legal scholars have influenced, and have been influenced by, theory. One prevailing perception of theory in the service of legal scholarship is that in earlier decades, theory served as a consolidating force – a means of gathering legal intellectuals around a few central and resounding themes. By contrast, in the world of contemporary legal scholarship, theory serves as a basis for fragmentation of opinions, positions and disciplinary claims. Are there alternative stories that can be told about the impact of theory on legal scholarship? How — and how much — is legal theory relevant to legal scholarship going forward?

James Hackney, Northeastern University 

Richard Leo, University of San Francisco; Teneille Brown, University of Utah; Laura Rosenbury, Washington University; Jon Hanson, Harvard University

12:15 PM 


1:30 PM

Break  (15 minutes)

1:45 PM

Panel 2
Legal Scholarship as Service 

One of the hallmarks of legal scholarship is its connection to the outside world. But over time, this connection has changed from one in which legal scholars sought primarily to influence judges to a much more subtle set of connections. Legal scholars now respond to policy imperatives, such as the recent financial crisis. We engage actively in interdisciplinary relationships with scholars within and outside of our university communities. Meanwhile, both technology and the influence of our newer and more interdisciplinary colleagues are changing the nature of legal scholarship. Legal scholars now post drafts on SSRN. We blog. These different relationships lead us to engage with concepts such as “access to justice” in more varied and nuanced ways. What defines our work as scholars in service in this new era of legal scholarship? 

Daniel Medwed, Northeastern University 

David Hoffman, Temple University; Martha Davis, Northeastern University; Robert Hocket, Cornell University

3:00 PM

Break (15 minutes)

3:15 PM

Introduction of Noah Feldman and Plenary 2
Speaker: Noah Feldman, Harvard University 

4:15 PM

 Break (15 minutes)
Transition to Dockser Commons

4:30 PM

 Breakout Sessions
Legal Scholarship 4.0: Works in Progress for a New Generation 
(Simultaneous sessions will be held in classrooms surrounding Dockser Commons)

6:15 PM

 Reception and Dinner (all conference participants)
Dockser Commons

9:00 PM