Kicking Interdisciplinary Legal and Business Education Up Another Notch

Are law schools and business schools, as well as applicants, obsessed with interdisciplinary education? In my experience, yes, and I have cautioned against what Judge Easterbrook called "Cyberspace and the Law of the Horse" ("put together two fields about which you know very little and get the worst of both words"). Getting interdisciplinary education right is hard.

Now Jeff Lipshaw, a professor at Suffolk Law School and all-around smart guy, has published a paper arguing that interdisciplinarity isn't enough anyway, because someone has to make the judgment call about what goes into that intersection, and how to solve those complexities:

The relationship of pure and mixed business and legal judgment can be modeled in a Venn diagram. The question is who is capable of making judgments in the overlap. Businesspeople are not competent to assess the legal implications, and not inclined merely to trust the decision to lawyers. Lawyers, on the other hand, are usually successors to a particular method of organizing the world, and members of a closed discipline. By nature of the very concept of a judgment, it must occur privately in a single conscious mind, no matter how the judgment is ultimately communicated, shared, or adopted by others. The implication for lawyering and legal education is that some of the old canards about leaving business judgment to the business people must fall away....

Business judgment depends far more on the argument from merit, versus legal judgment, which depends far more on the argument from authority, and a particular kind of authority at that. What, then, does it means to be an expert in the overlap of the diagram? We need to define a new professional discipline: the field of metadisciplinarity. Being a metadisciplinarian takes one to a higher order skill than mere interdisciplinarity: it means being an expert in the making of interdisciplinary judgments.... 

Read more here.

For more casual readers, I asked Jeff how this all boils down, and here's what he said:

There's a skill in deciding things you don't know much about.  Unfortunately, it's not a skill taught much in law school, nor anywhere in academia where strong disciplines govern.

Your point is correct - getting the second degree doesn't help much.  You also have to jump across the divide to make good business/legal judgments, whether you have the second degree or not, just as doubling down in academic disciplines doesn't do much except co-opt you in both orthodoxies!

Those of you who work or teach in one or the other discipline, or at the intersection of both, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Please share.


Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).