New faces on faculty

April 5, 2010Duke Law News

Several top scholars and teachers will join the Duke Law faculty in the coming academic year.

Dean David F. Levi has announced that Samuel W. Buell, John M. de Figueiredo, and Daniel Chen will join the governing faculty in July.

Buell, an expert in criminal law and former federal prosecutor whose writing and teaching also focuses on the regulation of corporations and financial markets, comes to Duke from the faculty of the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

de Figueiredo, a leading scholar in the areas of political and legal strategy, innovation management, law and economics, and competitive strategy, currently is on the faculties of the Anderson School of Management and School of Law at UCLA.

Chen, an innovative scholar in the areas of law and economics and the development of legal institutions, currently is a Kauffman Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School.

Samuel Buell: Scholarship informed by prosecutorial experience


“Students who were in Sam Buell's courses this year know he is a tremendous teacher,” said Levi. “In a very short period of time, he has become one of the country's leading scholars of white-collar crime, due in part to his extensive experience as a federal prosecutor.”

Over a decade as an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Massachusetts and the Eastern District of New York, Buell twice received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, the highest honor in the Department of Justice. He served as lead prosecutor in multiple complex investigations and prosecutions that involved fraud and racketeering, including one against a Boston-based organized crime group headed by James “Whitey” Bulger. From 2002 to 2004 Buell served as a prosecutor with the Enron Task Force, heading the investigation that led to the indictment of Jeffrey Skilling, Enron’s president.

Since entering the academy, teaching first at the University of Texas and, then at Washington University School of Law, Buell has focused his scholarship on issues relating to corporate fraud and the regulation of corporations and financial markets, publishing in many of the top law reviews in the country. He also is a member of the American Law Institute.
“This is a terrific catch for Duke,” said Kate Stith, the Lafayette S. Foster Professor of Law at Yale Law School. “Sam Buell’s scholarship on criminal law is creative, analytically powerful, cutting-edge, and important. He has unusually strong real-world experience, and deep knowledge of the relevant literatures. Because he is highly knowledgeable, acknowledges the contributions of those who preceded him, and proceeds on the assumption that others are acting in good faith (even if their arguments are wanting), his work has great credibility and is highly and deservedly influential.”

For his part, Buell said he is delighted to be staying on at Duke. “I care deeply about community, student excellence and engagement, and intellectual culture on a faculty. Duke Law scores off the charts on all of these,” he said. “This faculty is full of people with whom I fit ⎯ in terms of intellectual temperament, fields of research, and practical wisdom and experience. Durham is both lively and easy going, providing a great place for our family to live and learn. A happy and productive future awaits.”

John de Figueiredo: Research interests intersect law, economics, political science


de Figueiredo maintains a research agenda squarely at the intersection of law, economics, and political science; he engages in formal mathematical and statistical modeling of business problems that integrate all three disciplines in such areas as law and economics, political and legal strategy, the management of technology and innovation, and competitive strategy.

“Throughout my career, I’ve been looking for interdisciplinary solutions to problems,” said de Figueiredo, who taught a short course at Duke Law last spring. “The problems are getting more complex and the only way to understand them is through interdisciplinary approaches.”

A key aspect of his current research concerns how the strategies of companies shape the outcomes of policies generated by political institutions such as legislatures, agencies, and courts. One stream of inquiry relates to the interaction of companies in the political and legal process and involves multiple projects relating to how companies make decisions about the political and legal strategies, what the welfare implications of their strategies are, and how government might improve the policies and processes in these areas.

Another stream of inquiry concerns how companies design their technology strategy to respond to differences and changes in market and intellectual property regime conditions. “Developing technology strategies which are robust to the dynamics of the fast-changing business and institutional environments is a strategic and legal challenge that all firms face in retaining their competitive advantage,” said de Figueiredo.

In the field of administrative law, de Figueiredo studies companies’ strategic decisions as to which venue they choose in which to pursue federal regulatory policy — the legislature, the regulator, or the courts. He also continues to write and consult in the general area of competitive strategy.

de Figueiredo, who has won several teaching awards, has taught at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University in addition to his current position at UCLA. He also was the Olin Senior Visiting Research Fellow at Harvard Law School and is currently a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. At Duke, he will hold a joint appointment in the Law School and at the Fuqua School of Business.

“In bringing John de Figueiredo to Duke Law School, we are increasing our strength in law and economics, empirical legal studies, and law and business strategy. ” said Levi. “John will be a significant contributor to our new focus on law and innovation and law and entrepreneurship. He will also strengthen the interdisciplinary ties between the Law School and other parts of the University, particularly the Business School, but also the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Economics and Political Science Departments. He is a wonderfully creative and insightful scholar and teacher.”

For his part, de Figueiredo said a number of factors attracted him to Duke Law, including the quality of the faculty and students and the interdisciplinary opportunities available within the larger university.

“The faculty are very broad in their interests and they are engaged both in pure academic research as well as in the application of their research to real-world problems and public policy. That is very attractive,” he said. “And when I taught at Duke last year, I was impressed by the quality of the students in the law school. They were bright, they could handle complex problems, and they were able to integrate disparate literatures.

“One of the attractive features of Duke, as well, is that it’s strong not just in law, but also in business, economics, political science, and public policy — and it seems to have this ability and desire to communicate across all the units of the University to solve interdisciplinary problems.”

“John de Figueiredo is one of the more intriguing hires made by a top law school in the last five years,” said Emerson H. Tiller, J. Landis Martin Professor of Law and Business at Northwestern Law School. “He brings a remarkable level of energy and skill to both his teaching and research — it's a hire that other top law schools will notice and envy. He'll be a faculty leader upon arrival and will be a most enjoyable colleague. Most importantly, he will help position Duke Law School among the top of the elite law schools in the fields of law and economics and empirical legal studies. Hiring de Figueiredo was a gutsy — and brilliant — move by the Duke Law faculty.”

Daniel Chen: Empiricist examines how legal institutions develop


A 2009 Harvard Law School graduate with a PhD in economics from MIT, Chen is a prolific scholar in the field of law and economics with research and teaching interests that span the areas of tax, contracts, and procedure. His empirical research focuses on the development of legal institutions and whether people obey the law because of the incentives provided by the law or because of some inherent sense of legal legitimacy.

A key aspect of Chen’s research agenda involves measuring the moral and economic consequences of judicial discretion and the effects of particular laws. For example, theorists disagree on the effects of sexual harassment law on gender inequality. While the goal behind the laws, like other employment regulations, is to level the economic playing field for vulnerable groups, many economists see these policies as mandated benefits that can have negative consequences. In order to find out how sexual harassment laws impact labor markets in fact, Chen and his colleague, Jasmin Sethi, looked at how appellate judges — whose cases are randomly assigned — handle them.

“Part of how judges decide these cases is statistically predictable. For example, we find that a judge’s gender and party of appointment predict how sexual harassment cases are decided. The random assignment of judges therefore creates variation in precedent that is not due to social trends or other legal developments,” said Chen. Chen and Sethi found evidence that sexual harassment law does help reduce gender inequality in the workforce.

Chen is “absolutely thrilled” to be joining the Duke Law faculty, he said. “I think there is a complementarity in terms of the skills I’m bringing to the faculty and see tremendous opportunity for collaboration.”

“Daniel Chen is an exciting entry-level hire for Duke,” said Levi. “He is already a prolific scholar, and as an economist and empiricist he is a great addition to our faculty.”
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