I'm currently a computer scientist, with work experience in both academia and industry. I'm starting to get very interested in the intersection of law and computer science. I do think we really need people that know law and computer science at the same time very well, to decide on the important issues currently we are dealing with.

What is the best way for me to deal with my decision? Do I need a law degree first, before I do research on this matter, If so I should start with an Bsc?; or should I apply for a junior research position in the law department?

  • Perhaps start looking for a collaborator in the law department of some university near you?
    – user141592
    Feb 16 '15 at 13:59

You most certainly can work in the intersection without a law degree, and a number of prominent people have done so. A nice example is Edwina Rissland, who is a well-known expert on machine reasoning about the legal code, and who actually taught at Harvard law school for quite some time without ever having a law degree. I heard one of her lectures on the subject once, and found it gave me a whole new understanding both about how our law really works and how we humans think about the world.

Do note, however, that without a law degree, you will likely need some collaborators who are lawyers, to help you with their expertise in the subject, just as if you were digging into computational chemistry without being a chemist yourself. As for how to get into the area... just the same way as you would any other research area.

  • I got a 404 error on the link for Edwina, care to relink?
    – Bluebird
    Dec 10 '17 at 3:47
  • @jakebeal The link you provided is broken. I fixed it. If my fix pointed to a different person, please correct it.
    – scaaahu
    Dec 10 '17 at 8:34
  • @scaaahu Alas: link rot happens. Thank you for fixing it.
    – jakebeal
    Dec 10 '17 at 17:31

Coincidentally, I started researching computational law around the time you originally posted the question. I've spent the last two years on fellowships at Harvard (Berkman Klein), Stanford (CodeX's CompK), and Ca'Foscari University of Venice (Venice is awesome).

Some of my preliminary findings are available at

Based on this research I believe there's a big opportunity, as Marc Andreessen at A16Z might say, for software to eat law.

I'm working with a small research group to continue this line of research and ultimately produce some open-source software to illustrate the alignment between CS and law. If you'd like to get involved, please message me after you've skimmed the above materials, and maybe we'll discover some ways to collaborate!

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