Few issues are of greater need for careful attention today than the intersection of law and technology. And there is no better place to launch such an effort than at the Georgetown Law Center in the nation’s capital. Technology is now central to many of the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, the hearings in Congress, and the workshops at federal agencies. Legal education is itself transformed by technology, creating new paradigms for learning, new sources of information, and new policy issues.
The Georgetown Law Technology Review marks the beginning of a journal dedicated to providing Georgetown students and faculty—as well as students, scholars, and practitioners across the country—with the opportunity to explore the intersection of law and technology, to understand the remarkable dialectic that exists at this nexus, and to contribute to the ongoing dialogue that helps makes possible the evolution of our laws and our legal system.
The start of the Georgetown Law Technology Review has special significance for me. My first job out of law school was with the Senate Judiciary Committee on a newly formed subcommittee on Technology and Law. Those were the early days of Internet policy, but many of the issues from that era—privacy, IP, consumer security, transparency—seem even more relevant today. With a law degree and a little background in computer science, I found myself at the center of many of the most interesting legal and policy issues of the day. What constitutes a computer crime? Should encryption be regulated by the government? What laws protect innovation? How are privacy laws best designed for a digital world? How can technology promote the transparency of government? A legal education was important to understand the significance of court cases, the drafting of statutes, and the roles of the various branches of governments, but so too was some understanding of technology and, more often, the ability to find the right expert to help assess a complex problem.
Translating between the legal world and the world of technology thus became a central task. And once the connection is made between these two domains, our democratic institutions are strengthened as our courts and legislatures make better, more well-informed decisions. We have seen over the last several years the growing interest in promoting this dialogue. From the White House to the FTC, technologists and lawyers work closely together to assess emerging issues and develop policy recommendation. Georgetown law school graduates have worked with the Office of Science and Technology Policy to prepare recommendations for the President, informed by the expertise of scientists and engineers.
And we can anticipate that the demand for lawyers who “speak geek” will continue to grow. Technology is creating enormous opportunity but it is also posing many challenges, in areas from privacy and security to employment and competition. Familiar issues will grow more complex and new issues will emerge. Judges, members of Congress, and White House advisors will all need the ability to understand and assess these developments.
Our legal system thrives when smart, thoughtful lawyers engage in constructive debate about new challenges. We may not always agree about the best outcome—look at the number of closely decided cases at the U.S. Supreme Court—but overall the outcomes will be better with evidence-based analysis that integrates legal and technological expertise.
The Georgetown Law Technology Review is destined to become a leading resource for policy innovators.