Four Interdisciplinary Scholars Join Northwestern Law Faculty

September 15, 2016

2016 new faculty
Matthew Kugler, Sarah Lawsky, Ajay Mehrotra, and Sarath Sanga

Northwestern Pritzker School of Law is thrilled to welcome four new research faculty this fall: Matthew KuglerSarah Lawksy, Ajay K. Mehrotra, and Sarath Sanga.

“We have four tenure-track or tenured faculty members joining the faculty this year who greatly add to the breadth and diversity of background and expertise we already have here at Northwestern Law,” said David Dana, Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law and associate dean for faculty affairs.

“Sarah Lawsky is an experienced tax law expert, with extensive practice and teaching experience, who uses analytic methods drawn from philosophy in order to devise an approach to the drafting and interpretation of tax statutes and regulations that will reduce ambiguities and promote clarity. Matthew Kugler combines training in law and social psychology to explore legal protections for privacy, an increasingly important field in the digital age. Sarath Sanga draws on training in law and economics to study a range of contract and corporate law issues of contemporary significance. We are also thrilled that Ajay Mehrota, who is currently the director of the American Bar Foundation, formally joins the faculty this year as a tenured professor. Ajay is a leading scholar of tax law and American legal history, with a focus on the history of taxation and the political economy of taxation and other financial regulation.”

Matthew Kugler
Assistant Professor of Law

After getting a PhD in psychology at Princeton University, Matthew Kugler moved on to a postdoctoral fellowship at Lehigh University. However, he quickly found himself considering a return to the classroom, as he focused his research on issues at the intersection of psychology and the law.

“I realized it made a lot more sense to go to law school, get the degree, get some legal experience and then teach at a law school, as opposed to staying on the psychology path,” he said. “I thought the questions in law were more interesting and I thought there was a great need for psychologically-informed legal research.”

Kugler received his JD at the University of Chicago in 2015 and clerked for the Honorable Richard Posner of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit before joining the Northwestern Law faculty this fall.

“The faculty here are very good at what they do and they have a kind of interdisciplinary focus that is rare among law schools. I was really excited to be joining a place where a lot of people were doing similar research using similar methodology. I felt I could learn a lot from my colleagues and engage in informative conversations,” he said.

Kugler’s research focuses on issues of privacy and intellectual property. A recent line of research has focused on contracts between individuals and entities like Google and Apple. 

“Tons of information is being generated, and it’s really only governed by contracts with your service providers. Those contracts are notoriously incomprehensible. There’s been a lot of litigation but, fundamentally, no one understands what they mean,” he said.

“I see my role there as trying to understand what people are really trying to get out of privacy: what are they trying to protect and what they consider sufficient compensation for giving it up. For example, do people mind when they get targeted advertising?”

Kugler will teach a fall semester seminar on trade secrets and a doctrinal course on privacy law in the spring.

Sarah Lawsky
Professor of Law

Sarah Lawsky’s undergraduate studies in logic led her to law school, and as she began her career, she learned tax law was an especially good fit for her skills.

“My interest in formal logic never waned and the same thing that made me like formal logic made me like tax law,” she said.

Lawksy worked as an associate at two New York law firms for five years while simultaneously pursuing her LLM in Tax at New York University.

After finishing her LLM, she decided to make the move into academia. She taught first at George Washington University Law School, and then the University of California, Irvine School of Law, where she twice received the Professor of the Year (1L) Award.

Her research focuses on tax law and on the application of formal logic and artificial intelligence to the law. She is currently working on her dissertation for a PhD from UC Irvine’s Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science, which focuses on “finding a logic that is well-suited to formalizing the tax law, with the ultimate goal of making the tax law amenable to analysis by a computer.”

Lawsky, who taught as a visiting professor at the Northwestern Law last fall, was drawn to the school for a number of reasons.

“The Tax LLM program is a huge part. It’s a relatively new program that went from not existing to being one of the top Tax LLM programs in the country in just a few years, and it continues to thrive,” she said.

“I really enjoyed working with the students last fall, obviously it’s an excellent faculty, and there’s a real push right now toward law and technology and that’s great for me, because it fits really nicely with my research agenda.”

In the fall semester, Lawsky will teach Basic Federal Income Taxation for JDs, Federal Income Taxation for MSLs, and will host the Tax Colloquium.

Ajay K. Mehrotra
Professor of Law

Ajay Mehrotra joins the Northwestern Law faculty this fall, but is no stranger to the place.

Mehrotra is a research professor and the current executive director at the American Bar Foundation (ABF), whose offices are on the fourth floor of Rubloff, and was a doctoral fellow with the ABF before joining the faculty at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law.

“I was walking the halls of the ABF and Northwestern Law many years ago, and now I’m delighted to be back,” he said.

During his twelve years at Indiana, he taught tax law and legal history, served as the associate dean for research, and co-directed the Indiana University Center for Law, Society & Culture. He also cross-taught in the history department and the Kelley Business School, and emphasized making connections between the law school and other entities on campus, something he aims to continue at Northwestern.

“As an interdisciplinary scholar, I’m excited to be at Northwestern given its longstanding traditions in interdisciplinary legal studies,” Mehrotra said. “I’m really looking forward to being a part of this intellectual and institutional community.”

Mehrotra’s research looks at the history of American law and political economy through the lens of tax law, from a historical and comparative perspective.

“I focus specifically on tax law and policy as a way to understand the relationship between government and markets and civil society,” he said. “I’m delighted to be joining an outstanding tax law and legal history faculty at Northwestern.”

His 2013 book Making the Modern American Fiscal State: Law, Politics and the Rise of Progressive Taxation, 1877-1929 (Cambridge University Press) examined the rise of progressive taxation in the United States and aimed to understand its causes and consequences. It received the 2014 Best Book Award from the Society for US Intellectual History.

Mehrotra is beginning the second year of his five-year term as director of the ABF, an independent, research organization “dedicated to advancing justice through rigorous empirical and interdisciplinary research on the law, legal processes, and the law's impact on our society.”

Sarath Sanga
Assistant Professor of Law

While pursuing his PhD in Economics, Sarath Sanga was in the middle of studying a major public works project in Mumbai and realized how important questions of the law could be in his work.

“The project was a typical slum—people don’t have property rights, their tenure there is insecure. They might be kicked out, especially when the city expands. So I came at it from an economics perspective, ‘Oh we need to give property rights to people and make the law clear,’ and I realized even telling that story and being part of that project, as a witness, it was one great legal battle,” he said.

He went to law school at Yale, where his interests expanded. Today, his research focuses on examining business organizations and contract law from theoretical and empirical perspectives.

“There are millions of public contracts out there, they’re hard to sift through by hand,” he said. “I combine both human coding and machine learning techniques to parse through contracts, so that we can ask questions of the law—questions of contract theory—to huge amounts of data.”

Sanga was the first to digitize millions of filings from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which resulted in the largest and most representative database of public company contracts. He has also published extensively on the law and economics of crime and racial profiling and has studied taught and worked across the globe—in India, France, and Japan.

Sanga joins the Law School faculty after teaching as a fellow at Columbia Law School and a visiting assistant professor at University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

“The faculty and the commitment to high quality research is very high at Northwestern, that’s something I really appreciate and can’t wait to exploit—in a good way,” he said.

“This is a day dream come true—I want to say day dream because it was something I consciously thought about, something I really wanted.”

Sanga will be teaching Business Organizations in the fall and running a Law and Economics seminar in the spring.