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VLS Launches Center for Legal Innovation

April 24, 2013

South Royalton, VT—A Vermont Law School (VLS) faculty member known for cross-cutting, interdisciplinary work has established the Center for Legal Innovation and is collaborating with several organizations on its work—including Exari, Google, and the Office of Financial Research at the U.S. Department of Treasury.

“We are helping create a future where innovation and entrepreneurial energy redefine legal education, the practice of law, and law itself,” said Oliver Goodenough, who is a professor of law at VLS and the center’s founding Director. “Through the Center, we have established a free space in which to re-envision what law can be, untethered from a fixation on what law now is.”

Three engagements over the last year help to explain the Center’s activities. With Exari—a Boston-based company focused on document assembly and contract management software—Goodenough and his colleague, Jeanne Eicks ’96, have been providing product research and development support. VLS students are working directly on these projects, which have been underway for more than a year.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for VLS students to learn first-hand how the law and lawyering is changing,” said Eicks. “It has led to externship opportunities for students and at least one job for a member of the Class of 2013.”

In addition to Exari, the Center recently received a Google Research Award to explore new ways in which organizations—including businesses, non-profits, and hybrid organizations such as B-corps—can be governed in a digital age.

Professor Goodenough will utilize the grant to support his work on automating the formation and governance of organizations fundamentally. The aim is to rethink, in light of digital tools and platform, what an organization is and does.

“The law is shaped by the technology that supports it,” said Goodenough. “One hundred years ago, we developed the case method because of a technological innovation of the time—the spread of cheap, mechanized printing—that subsequently influenced the way we argue about law in court, how we approach scholarship, and the very conceptual foundation of the American justice system. I am very excited to ask basic questions about the elements and logic of organizational governance in light of the pervasive presence of digital technology.”

The grant will enable Goodenough, through the Center for Legal Innovation at VLS, to award an LLM Fellowship later this year to support research and publication, as well as collaborations with businesses, non-profits, hybrid organizations, secretary of state offices, and elected officials interested in enabling these new rules and structures to be developed.

“I believe there is significant economic opportunity and creativity to be unleashed when rules and laws exist in ways that reflect actually how we work today,” Goodenough said.

With the Office of Financial Research (OFR) at the U.S. Department of Treasury, Goodenough is working to create a financial instrument library as part of work related to the Dodd-Frank Act. The OFR is an Office within Treasury established by Congress to serve the Financial Stability Oversight Council, its member agencies, and the public by improving the quality, transparency, and accessibility of financial data and information; by conducting and sponsoring research related to financial stability; and by promoting best practices in risk management.

Goodenough has taught at Vermont Law School since 1992, and currently teaches courses on Digital Drafting, Representing Entrepreneurial Business, Intellectual Property, and Property. In addition, he is a faculty fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, an Adjunct Professor at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, and a fellow at the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research.

Peter Glenshaw, Director of Communications
Vermont Law School
office: 802-831-1318
cell: 603-738-8487

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