Law School launches Wisconsin Business Law Initiative

Nov. 15, 2011

by Greg Bump

The University of Wisconsin Law School is launching the Wisconsin Business Law Initiative to better connect faculty and students with business lawyers in Wisconsin and beyond.

Jonathan Lipson, the UW Law School Foley & Lardner Professor of Law and director of the Business Law Initiative effort, says the idea for the initiative came about in part to honor former Law School Dean Ken Davis, a renowned business law scholar, and in part to coordinate, promote and bolster the business law work done at the school.

Because other disciplines often get the spotlight at the UW Law School, Lipson says the Law School's distinctive approach to business law sometimes is overlooked despite the school's long history of pioneering study in the field. The UW has a distinctive, grounded approach to understanding how the legal system affects business practices. That approach has been influential at other elite law schools, Lipson says.

"The current trend in legal scholarship, especially business law scholarship, is to be more interdisciplinary. But that is something the University of Wisconsin has been doing since before Willard Hurst started to write about commercial practices in Wisconsin's north woods in the middle of the last century," Lipson explains. "What we have not been doing is telling the world about it, and that is what I'd like to change."

Lipson, who has done major empirical studies of lawyer's closing opinion practices and the use of examiners in large, complex bankruptcies, believes the time is right to raise the profile of the Law School's business law program.

"We have terrific teachers and scholars doing important, cutting edge business law work," Lipson says, citing the work of Wisconsin faculty such as Stewart Macaulay, Bill Whitford and Darian Ibrahim, among others. He also noted that the initiative will support the training efforts of the Law School's popular Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic and Real Estate concentration.

The initiative formally kicks off on Nov. 18-19 as a co-sponsor of the 2011 Wisconsin Law Review Symposium. The symposium will focus on major changes in the nature and role of in-house and general counsel in the legal departments of businesses. Lipson says one of the benefits of hosting the symposium is that students will have the chance to engage with internationally recognized business law authorities and business lawyers, both at firms and in-house.

"Bringing together lawyers and scholars is central to the Wisconsin approach," Lipson says.

"The symposium is a perfect opportunity to continue that tradition, while exploring important changes in the business law world. We're proud to co-sponsor it," Lipson says, noting that other co-sponsors include the Law School's Institute for Legal Studies, the Global Legal Studies Center, and East Asian Legal Studies Center, as well as the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association.