I'm a Student, I'm Cheap, And I Have Something To Prove.


In late October a small group of law schools, cities, and entrepreneurs gathered at Brooklyn Law School to discuss building a national network of law schools that partner with their hometown city halls (or is that cities hall?). The discussion ranged from procurement reform to how disruptive new businesses present local governments with both opportunities and pitfalls.  Although this was merely the first meeting for a nascent group, the potential is incredible and the interest of the participants is an encouraging sign for things to come. Here are a few tweets from the daylong event. 

Cities have dire need for a trusted partner in innovation, which was made clear through out the day. For Cities, innovation is a not a luxury, but a necessity. Cities must continue to provide services and improve upon those services, but often find themselves with fewer and fewer resources to provide those services. Disruptive businesses such as Air BnB and Uber present new challenges forcing cities to rethink the very nature of regulation and the role cities play in the day to day of their residents. Cities must innovate or die, but they simply don’t have the means for thoughtful reflection, research, and experimentation (at least not currently). Running a city is an exercise in triage and while innovation is a must, it is often reactionary. Law schools and other local institutions of learning are in a unique position to operate as the R & D for cities and would do well to foster this kind of relationship with their cities, not only for the sake of the city, but the school and most importantly the students and the citizens. 

Moderately sized cities can contribute enormously to this this urban innovation, which in turn contributes to the large innovation in government movement. Moderately sized cities, or evenly sparsely populate states (I’m looking at you Vermont) are more nimble, deal with fewer entrenched interests, and generally present a more conducive environment for experimentation (more forgiving of mistakes).  Mid-sized cities also have fewer resources and those resources are usually granted by another jurisdiction, i.e. state funds or federal block grants. These resources are not reliable and can disappear at any time. Finally, moderately sized cities offer a level of access that simply cannot be achieved in larger communities. Kansas City, Missouri has a wonderful and growing relationship with UMKC Law and now the broader UMKC institution. Our Vanderbilt Law School participants also enjoy personal connections with Nashville’s City Hall. These connections are invaluable for the necessary collaboration between municipalities and their high-learning institutions. 

So, go forth law, computer engineering, and MBA students, seek out the first local policymaker you can find, tell them, “I’m a student, I’m cheap, and I have something the prove.” You’ll be amazed where it might lead you.  


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