David Freeman Engstrom is a far-ranging scholar of the design and implementation of litigation and regulatory regimes whose expertise runs to civil procedure, administrative law, constitutional law, law and technology, and empirical legal studies.
Professor Engstrom’s current work focuses on access to justice, from complex, headline-grabbing mega-litigations to the millions of low-dollar but highly consequential cases, including debt collection actions and evictions, that shape the lives of Americans each year.
A particular focus is the role of technology in the civil justice system, including lawyers’ use of “legal tech” tools to serve their clients as well as a growing menu of new technologies designed to assist those without lawyers. Professor Engstrom is the co-founder of the Filing Fairness Project, an ambitious and innovative effort that is bringing together six states to simplify filing procedures and eliminate barriers created by a state-level checkerboard of technical systems. Engstrom has published numerous articles on the implications of new technologies for litigation and the legal system and is the editor of the forthcoming volume, Legal Tech and the Future of Civil Justice (Cambridge University Press 2023). From 2020 to 2022, he served as a public appointee to the State Bar of California’s Closing the Justice Gap Working Group, tasked with proposing reforms to foster innovation in legal services delivery models.
Professor Engstrom’s expertise in law and technology also extends to the legal and policy implications of the “automated state.” In particular, he is an expert on growing government use of AI-based technologies to perform the work of governance—a trend that is poised to transform everything from policing, to regulatory enforcement, to the distribution of public benefits. During 2018-2020, Engstrom served as a principal advisor to the Administrative Conference of the United States on the project, Government by Algorithm: Artificial Intelligence in Federal Administrative Agencies, which garnered national media attention and remains the most comprehensive treatment of the subject to date.
Past scholarly projects include a series of articles on the evolution of the class action, empirical analyses of the class action and other procedure rules, the first large-scale empirical investigation of qui tam litigation under the False Claims Act, a groundbreaking study of the role of race in American administrative law, and a set of articles charting the past, present, and future of American job discrimination laws.
Professor Engstrom regularly teaches and lectures on these topics at Stanford and around the world. His award-winning scholarship has appeared in Stanford Law Review, Yale Law Journal, and Columbia Law Review, among many others, and has been cited in scores of federal and state court decisions and litigation briefs. His writing and expert commentary have also appeared in numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today, Bloomberg, Wired, Forbes, The National Law Journal, CNN, and MSNBC.
At Stanford, Professor Engstrom co-directs the Deborah L. Rhode Center on the Legal Profession, the premier academic center working to shape the future of lawyering and the legal system. From 2018 to 2021, he served as Stanford Law School’s Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and, in that role, led an effort to shape the law school’s programs and offerings around law and digital technology. He is a faculty affiliate at CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics, the Regulation, Evaluation, and Governance Lab (RegLab), and the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, where he currently chairs the Technology Policy Governance committee.
Beyond teaching and research, Professor Engstrom has served as counsel or consultant to a wide range of entities, including law firms, major corporations, governments and administrative agencies, universities, and a leading litigation finance company. Most recently, he served as counsel to MDL lawyers opposing a proposed class action settlement in the RoundUp litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. He regularly authors amicus and litigation briefs in key cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, state supreme courts, and other tribunals. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute, a public member of the Administrative Conference of the United States, and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation.
Before joining Stanford’s faculty, Engstrom litigated at what is now Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick in Washington, D.C., where he represented clients before the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Courts of Appeals, and various trial courts and agencies. He also clerked for Judge Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and was a John M. Olin Fellow at Yale Law School. Earlier in his career, he worked on education, early childhood, and civil rights issues at both Yale University’s Edward Zigler Center and the Hewlett Foundation. Before that, he taught high school and coached football in the Mississippi Delta. He has a J.D. from Stanford Law School, an M.Sc. from Oxford University, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University.