Professor of Law and
Director of the Center for Law and Computers
From Internet security in e-commerce to electronic money laundering to regulating e-mail advertising, Professor Richard Warner tackles critical legal issues arising from the increasing number of transactions occurring in cyberspace.
Professor Richard Warner has the Star Trek syndrome: He wants to
go where no one has gone before.
Judging by his professional life, he seems to be succeeding. How
else to explain what a Ph.D. in philosophy is doing as the faculty
director of Chicago-Kent's Center for Law and Computers?
Warner's career path is not as unlikely as one might think. After
graduating from Stanford University, Warner set out to become a
professor of English literature. But during graduate school in literature
at the University of California at Berkeley, he was smitten by philosophy
and switched his course of studies. "I viewed the move to philosophy
as more practical than English literature," he says. "I
thought philosophy was focused on more real-world issues."
Warner earned his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1976 and moved to the
University of Pennsylvania, where he taught for seven years before
switching to the University of Southern California in 1985. While
teaching there, Warner befriended several law professors who convinced
him he could best pursue his growing interest in the philosophy
of law by acquiring a law degree.
So Warner earned a law degree at the University of Southern California,
where he served on the law review and was elected to the Order of
the Coif. "Getting a law degree was the best thing I ever did,"
Warner says. "I get to do a lot of interesting stuff that I
never would have gotten to do."
Much of that interesting stuff revolves around Warner's interest
in computers and the Internet. Despite his distinctly non-tech background,
Warner confesses to having an innate ability in math and science.
He aced logic courses during his philosophy studies and always beat
the math majors at chess. He also loves to tinker with computers.
Warner learned how to program computers while toying with the idea
of a computer tutorial for Chicago-Kent students. He finds computer
programming to be profoundly satisfying. "What you lack in
academia you see right there because the computer does exactly what
you tell it to do," he explains. "It provides an immediacy
that you miss when you're teaching or writing articles."
Warner is using his affinity for technology to teach about the
emerging field of Internet law and to explore new ways to integrate
computers and law. "The issues relate at least as much to what
the law ought to be as to what it is," he says. "And that's
perfect for me with my philosophy background."
Warner's current scholarship focuses on Internet security and trespass
as well as the regulation of e-mail advertising, and a forthcoming
book, titled Border Disputes: Property and the Internet,
addresses this developing area of law. Warner recently received
a grant from the U.S. State Department to develop a program to combat
electronic money laundering in Ukraine. He also is in the process
of revamping Chicago-Kent's certificate program in e-commerce to
focus on issues of security-an area of considerable interest to
law firms and financial institutions.
Lat year Warner addressed the United Nations Economic Commission
for Europe on the topic "Civil Liability for Inadequate Network
Security." At the request of the FBI, he also addressed the
Chicago Crime Commission on "Global Cybercrime."
Warner is president of the Standards Association for Elections
Online (SAFE Online), a group of academic and business leaders who
recommend policies and practices for ensuring the legitimacy of
political campaign Web sites. He developed and directs the Center
for Business Responsibility at the Catholic University of Lublin,
Poland, where next year he will teach a real-time course over the
Internet for the university's law school. He also directs Chicago-Kent's
Project Poland, which founded and administers a training institute
for Polish judges.
"We try to involve our students in all of these initiatives
to give them a practical taste of international law," he explains.
"And it gives them an important role in trying to make the
world a better place. You don't often get a chance to do that in
an enjoyable way."
From Chaucer to Kant to Holmes, Warner has found his academic home.
"Sometimes," he says, "I am sitting in a hotel in
Warsaw and I just start wondering: How did a guy who thought he
was going to be an English literature professor wind up here?"