New Faculty Profile: William H. J. Hubbard

An Economist to Tackle Real-Life Questions

Economics was one of William H. J. Hubbard’s early intellectual pursuits, but it took combining it with the study of law to give him the grounding he sought in a career. As a student at the Law School in the late 1990s, Hubbard was happy to discover that this was a place where he could take his background in economics and abstract theory and apply it to a discipline that presented concrete questions about real-life problems.

Now, having earned his PhD this year from the University of Chicago’s Department of Economics, Hubbard is gladly joining the ranks of Law School faculty as an Assistant Professor of Law after serving the last year here as a Kauffman Fellow. “I loved being a student at the Law School,” said Hubbard, ’00. “My friends and I worshipped our professors, and I have to admit that teaching here has been a longtime dream.”

Hubbard is yet another of the Law School’s young faculty hires that will invigorate the academic community with his scholarship. (Also in that group is his classmate, Anup Malani, ’00, who is the Lee and Brena Freeman Professor of Law.) In the Law School’s continuing trend of nurturing new scholars who also have practical legal experience, Hubbard arrived here with five years of litigation experience and expertise in civil procedure.

“We are thrilled to have someone with as much potential as William join the faculty to follow in the Law School’s rich law and economics tradition,” said Michael H. Schill, the Law School’s Dean and Harry N.Wyatt Professor of Law. “William will be part of our new generation of law and economics scholars who promise to revolutionize the field just as their predecessors did.”

When Hubbard was a student, he appreciated the challenge presented in the Law School’s high level of academic rigor, in addition to finding opportunities to use his background in economics. After serving as Executive Editor of the Law Review, he graduated in 2000 with high honors. Following law school, Hubbard clerked for the Honorable Patrick E. Higginbotham of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. From 2001 to 2006, Hubbard practiced law as a litigation associate at Mayer Brown LLP in Chicago.

He began the PhD program in Economics at the University of Chicago in 2006, a decision inspired, in part, by his years in private practice. “I finally had a perspective to understand that you learn the basic intuition for economics as an undergraduate, but you don’t learn what questions are worth asking,” Hubbard said. “In law school and in legal practice, you encounter those questions directly, and I realized the tools that the study of economics provides were useful to answering those questions.”

Hubbard’s main research interest is in the law and economics of civil procedure, a field of study he views as less developed compared to the law and economics of torts, property, contracts, corporate governance, or antitrust. He also does research in labor economics and is always most interested in questions that are relevant to everyday life.

Some students have already had the opportunity to take a seminar from Hubbard. In the spring quarter, Hubbard taught Advanced Law and Economics: Theory and Practice, which examined theoretical and empirical work in the economic analysis of law with an emphasis on the study of legal practice itself. His class sizes will jump dramatically in the 2011–2012 academic year when he begins teaching first-year Civil Procedure II, in addition to a new upper-level civil procedure course. “I cannot think of anyone in recent memory who has offered William’s combination of high-level legal practice experience, cutting-edge interdisciplinary training, and deep curiosity,” said Deputy Dean and Sidley Austin Professor of Law Lior Strahilevitz. “I believe he will be the great civil procedure scholar of his generation, and our students are going to adore his classes.”  Though Hubbard is new this year to the Law School’s full-time faculty, he had the opportunity to familiarize himself with his alma mater while serving as a Kauffman Fellow in 2010–2011. Already, Hubbard has begun collaborating on research with Professor of Law M. Todd Henderson, ’98, and has been discussing potential research topics with Assistant Professor of Law Aziz Huq.

Hubbard’s scholarship will continue in the law and economics tradition that sparked his interest years ago. By sharing his knowledge with students, he will influence the next generation of Law School alumni and will guide them as they grapple with questions and theories—new and old.