The capacity of public and private organizations in the US and the world to reform themselves through monitored experimentation, and the conditions under which that capacity is and is not realized, are transforming how administrative agencies function, how statutes are written, what rights mean, and the nature of law itself. Although the reach and effect of these changes is still uncertain, it is necessary to closely investigate these new methods of governance, have a sustained and searching debate about emergent possibilities, and eventually to frame the choices we as a society will face and the way legal practice can influence them.
A public innovations project at Columbia Law School is engaged in just this combination of theoretical inquiry, empirical investigation, and strategic collaboration with innovating organizations. The project brings together Columbia faculty (the "Columbia Experimentalist Group") with an interest in "democratic experimentalism" and expertise in a variety of disciplines both inside and beyond law. The Columbia group is collaborating with scholars at other institutions, including the University of California at Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, and the University of Minnesota.
The Columbia Experimentalist Mentorship Program was initiated in 2005 by the Columbia Experimentalist Group to provide a select group of Columbia Law students (the "Columbia Experimentalist Scholars") with the opportunity to choose projects, seminars and events of interest to them, and to collaborate with the Columbia Experimentalist Group on that work. Since its inception, the Columbia Experimentalist Group has worked closely with students, in many cases over a period of several years. Many of these projects culminated in publications by student authors in legal and other journals in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere.
The Columbia Experimentalist Scholars will have the opportunity to choose ongoing participation in the group's informal discussions and formal programs (including, frequently, with innovative legal practitioners); collaboration on empirical research and writing, starting as early in your legal career as suits your needs and with the goal of generating publishable work; assured admission to a first-year, second-semester course currently being designed on innovations in public regulatory practice; teaching assistant positions in the same course in subsequent years; admission to seminars and courses taught by affiliated faculty, including "New Forms of Public Interest Advocacy" and the "Theory and Practice of Workplace Equity"; and various forms of directed and supervised research for course credit.