Nobel Prize For Law? Not Yet, But Maybe One Day…

It’s unofficial “thank your neighborhood scientist” day.

Today, three researchers got the call that their discovery merited the most coveted award in science, the Nobel Prize.

Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura were honored for inventing the blue light emitting diode and will split the $1.2 million prize.

These scientists created what others had failed to do for 30 years: create the blue diode for LED lights. Not only do LED lights save on energy, they don’t contain mercury.

The Nobel committee said of this discovery, it “hold[s] great promise for increasing the quality of life for over 1.5 billion people around the world who lack access to electricity grids,” reports CNN.

“They triggered a fundamental transformation of lighting technology,” the committee commented.

“They succeeded where everyone else failed.”

Lawyers are not generally considered scientists, although they do produce—on occasion—scientific work published in academic journals.

But, winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics are not scientists either, in the strict sense of the word. They are recognized for their academic achieves, and the winner is not even selected from the same committee as the Peace Prize.

Furthermore, the major contribution of prize-winning economists is frequently in the field of public policy—not far from the domain of lawyers.

As such, many feel there should be a Nobel Prize for Law, one to recognize the field’s commitment to social transformation or humanistic scholarship.

“A Nobel Prize in Law might be given each year to that individual or group of individuals who have contributed most powerfully to the development of the rule of law,” writes Garrett Epps for The Nation.

“Some remarkable men and women might be candidates: lawyers like Li Heping; judges like Baltasar Garzón of Spain, who began the human rights prosecution of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet; Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the chief justice of Pakistan, who has resisted President Pervez Musharraf’s attempts to subvert the legal system; legal scholars like Cherif Bassiouni, the Egyptian-born father of the International Criminal Court, a former Peace Prize nominee; and American feminist Catherine MacKinnon.”

For now, the most lawyers can hope for is local recognition for their efforts. Law firms should consider establishing their own rewards for associates who have succeeded in publishing in law journals or peer-reviewed publications.

Not only will your firm be pushing the current boundaries of the field of law, but it will also incentivize your lawyers to research hot-button topics and the most recent court opinions that might end up providing unique insights into your clients’ cases.

In addition, encouraging publishing among your law firm professionals will encourage cross-firm collaboration. This is especially important for large firms with many specialties who would benefit from cross-departmental communication.

Finally, receiving recognition—no matter the scale, global or local—reminds your attorneys of the greater good and why they joined law in the first place. When it comes to choosing a firm, younger associates are looking for a place “to belong” and for a community with purpose.

You’ll retain more lawyers when you foster a workplace committed not just to clients, but also to scholarship and intellectual life.

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