Research & Scholarship

The Wisconsin Approach

Wisconsin faculty members share a commitment to excellence in research, embracing a wide variety of substantive concerns and methodological approaches. The faculty has long been known for its interest in interdisciplinary work and for its commitment to a law-in-action approach to scholarship.

For Wisconsin scholars, no matter how interesting or elegant the underlying theory, Wisconsin's law-in-action approach challenges them to answer the question: "Why should this matter to people in the real world?" In contrast to legal scholars whose work is theory-based, Wisconsin scholars tend to begin with an observed, real-world problem or phenomenon and then seek to explain it and to put it into a larger theoretical context.

Much of the research undertaken at Wisconsin is devoted to explaining how law and legal institutions work and often to understanding why law and legal institutions might not be working as intended. The Wisconsin faculty contextualizes law, studying it as one of many social processes that may shape behavior. Many faculty members are active in the Law & Society Association, an international organization of scholars who study the interrelation of society and the legal process; indeed, the current Wisconsin faculty includes three LSA past presidents.

The work of the Wisconsin faculty is not geographically bounded. Though a majority study U.S. law, a growing number explore law in less familiar settings and are focusing their research on the workings of law in countries throughout the world.

Faculty Activities and Scholarship

  • Meg Gaines's article, "How HIPAA Harms Care, and How to Stop It" (co-written with Donald Berwick), was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in June.

  • Sumudu Atapattu was invited to present at the International Law Summer Institute organized by the Center for International Governance Innovation and Balsillie School of International Affairs, Waterloo, Canada. She also spoke at a symposium organized by the Balsillie School on “Legal Solutions for Sustainability: Innovative International Instruments for the Sustainable Development Goals.” She then spoke at the International Legal Experts Roundtable titled “World Tour of Regional Tools for the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” organized by the Center for International Sustainable Development Law at McGill University in Montreal.

  • Gretchen Viney has been appointed to her second four-year term on the UW Athletic Board. She is one of two academic staff representatives serving on this shared-governance committee.

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