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Scholars in economics, history, psychology and law join cross-disciplinary faculty.

August 14, 2008
PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania Law School is strengthening its leading role in cross-disciplinary legal education by adding to its teaching ranks scholars in economics, history, psychology and law who were being recruited by several top law schools, Dean Michael A. Fitts announced. "The integration of law and other disciplines pervades Penn Law," Fitts said. "More than 70 percent of our faculty hold advanced degrees in other fields; we sit shoulder to shoulder with some of the world's greatest medical, professional and graduate schools, and nearly 40 percent of our students take classes outside of the Law School. "Tomorrow's lawyers need a solid foundation in the intersection between law and many other complementary fields in order to help us address virtually every fundamental issue facing our country today," Fitts added. "Penn Law's depth in cross-disciplinary education is unparalleled." Three scholars are being appointed professors with tenure: Tom Baker, currently at the University of Connecticut School of Law; Jill Fisch, Fordham University School of Law; and Jonathan Klick, Florida State University College of Law. A fourth, David Abrams of the University of Chicago Law School, is joining Penn Law as an assistant professor. In addition, two recent Penn Law graduates who are completing doctoral degrees at the University of Pennsylvania will join the Law School faculty through fellowship programs designed to attract some of the brightest minds into legal teaching. They are Penn Law graduates Karen Tani, who is completing a Ph.D. in American history, and Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, who is completing a Ph.D. in psychology. Both will teach at Penn Law for the next two years. Pending university approval, all six of the appointments are effective July 1. The addition of four new tenured positions results in a 45 percent growth in the number of standing faculty since 2000; the size of the student body has remained fairly constant during that time, Fitts pointed out. Taken together, Professors Baker, Fisch, Klick and Abrams "will contribute to our partnerships with Penn's Wharton School and will help advance our understanding the relationships between law and behavior," said Law Professor Reed Shuldiner, co-chair of the committees that recommended bringing the four to Penn. "We are delighted to welcome them to Philadelphia." Prof. Tom BakerTom Baker, whom Shuldiner described as "the nation's preeminent young scholar of insurance law," is author of the 2005 book The Medical Malpractice Myth. In that work, Baker attacks the misperceptions behind the tort reform movement and proposes an evidence-based approach to medical liability reform. He argues, for example, that there are too many cases of medical malpractice, too few law suits filed, and that the insurance industry business cycle, not litigation, is the primary cause of the crisis in medical malpractice insurance. His work on moral hazard - whether and when it makes sense to insulate people or institutions from the consequences of bad decisions - has been described as "profound." Baker also studies the relationship between liability and insurance in the corporate environment, including director and officer liability, and is director of the Insurance Law Center at Connecticut Law. Before entering teaching, he clerked for Judge Juan Torruella of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, practiced with the firm of Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., and served as an Associate Counsel for the Independent Counsel investigating the Iran-Contra affair. Prof. Jill FischJill Fisch, now at Fordham, "is in the top echelon of corporate law scholars and her talents as an academic entrepreneur will be important for our Institute for Law and Economics," Penn's Shuldiner said. Fisch is director of the Fordham Corporate Law Center and she writes extensively on securities regulation, corporate governance and federal courts. She is widely praised for her ability to bridge gaps between academia and the world of business. Prior to joining Fordham she served as an associate with Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton and as a trial attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Prof. Jonathan KlickJonathan Klick, now at Florida State, is "an up-and-coming star in empirical law and economics," said Shuldiner. Klick's scholarship focuses on econometric studies of legal institutions and of health and safety regulations, in which he uses economic analyses to study the behavioral effects of new laws. He writings about health law and economics, litigation, discrimination, crime, education and other topics have appeared in journals about the law, economics, medicine and public policy. Klick has served as a research fellow for the Department of Defense, the Council of Economic Advisors and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Prof. David AbramsDavid Abrams, an empirical economist now at the University of Chicago, focuses much of his work on criminal law, intellectual property and virtual economies. Among his research interests are attempts to measure and predict an attorney's lawyering capabilities and whether judges vary their sentences based on defendants' race. "Having Jonathan Klick and David Abrams on one faculty brings together at Penn Law two emerging leaders in a new generation of empirical scholars who are illuminating the workings of the legal system in new and exciting ways," said Penn Law Professor R. Polk Wagner, co-chair of the faculty recruitment committee. The two promising young legal scholars who are receiving fellowships to help them prepare for careers as law professors will have "the chance to participate in the intellectual life of the faculty, as well as the absolutely essential time to write," said Sarah Barringer Gordon, the Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and a Professor of History at Penn who helped facilitate creation of the fellowships. Karen TaniKaren Tani is a 2007 graduate of Penn Law and is a law clerk for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Guido Calabresi, a former dean of the Yale Law School. Her doctoral dissertation, "Litigating the American Welfare State, 1937-1976," explores how the courts and other adjudicative bodies have been used to clarify, justify, shape, and contest the patchwork of programs and policies that have comprised the American "safety net." Tani is the recipient of Penn Law's Sharswood Fellowship, created by the Penn Law Review in 2007 to support research, writing and teaching by a Penn Law graduate who intends to pursue an academic legal career. Tess Wilkinson-RyanTess Wilkinson-Ryan is a 2005 graduate of Penn Law. Her scholarly interest is in judgment and decision-making, including negotiations. She is researching cases of contract negotiations in which prevalent moral norms inhibit individuals from pursuing legally permissible action that could be of financial benefit. Wilkinson-Ryan is the recipient of a newly created Faculty Fellowship, which supports research, writing and teaching by a graduate of any law school who intends to pursue an academic legal career. "Karen Tani and Tess Wilkinson-Ryan were attracted to Penn Law as students because of our cross-disciplinary opportunities," Gordon said. "Our fellowships will help them launch successful careers as law professors."