Professor Michael Livermore Wins McFarland Prize

Honor Goes to Junior Faculty Member for Outstanding Research
Michael Livermore

Professor Michael Livermore’s research focuses on environmental law, regulation, bureaucratic oversight and the computational analysis of law. Photo by Tom Daly

May 29, 2019

Professor Michael Livermore is this year’s recipient of the University of Virginia School of Law’s Carl McFarland Prize, which honors outstanding research by a junior faculty member.

Livermore focuses his study on environmental law, regulation, bureaucratic oversight and the computational analysis of law.

Dean Risa Goluboff recently announced the prize at the Law School’s annual faculty dinner. She noted the “astonishing number of books, articles, book chapters and more” he has produced from his research.

Goluboff highlighted Livermore’s exemplary article “The Perils of Experimentation,” published in the Yale Law Journal in 2017, which demonstrates that decentralized decision-making in the federal bureaucracy doesn’t always benefit the public.

“As Mike puts it, ‘This is the Mr. Hyde of policy experimentation’s Dr. Jekyll,’” she said.

She also mentioned Livermore’s breakthroughs in the computational analysis of legal text as it relates to “law search,” which he used in work analyzing U.S. Supreme Court decisions, to name one example.

“Mike and his co-authors explain how the move to computational approaches to law search frees the law from the assumptions of law codifiers and indexers, like those who control West’s digests, and gives more power to the creators of the computational search engines” she said.

Legal research that used to take hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of human labor to perform is increasingly being done in a few minutes or seconds.

“Of course, that raises important questions over who should control the development of these search engines and whether the assumptions and code behind those search engines should be transparent and open to all for inspection,” Goluboff said.

Livermore joined the faculty in 2013. He teaches environmental law, administrative law, regulatory law and policy, and advanced seminars on these topics. He is co-editor of the forthcoming book, “Law as Data: Computation, Text, and the Future of Legal Analysis.”

“We have a truly special intellectual environment here at the Law School: rigorous yet supportive,” Livermore said following the award’s presentation. “With interdisciplinary faculty who span the social science and humanistic disciplines, top-notch doctrinal scholars across legal fields, and a culture of give-and-take that embraces a range of perspectives and methods, the Law School has been a perfect place to grow as a legal academic.”

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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