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November 2004

Richard Warner
Professor of Law and
Faculty 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?"


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