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Hilary Robinson

Associate Professor of Law and Sociology

Northeastern University School of Law

Professor Hilary Robinson teaches courses focusing on the way technology influences the law and plays a key role in the law school’s Center for Law, Innovation and Creativity (CLIC). Her current research concerns the interaction between technological change and legal decision-making in the construction of social order, particularly as legal institutions engage in decision-making about technological things and practices. Her PhD thesis at MIT (2017) examined work in an “algorithmic labor market” by studying Uber drivers in Boston based on semi-random sampling through ride-alongs. In addition to constructing a typology of Uber drivers, she described collective action undertaken by a group of drivers in the form of a “strike against the algorithm,” which was an effort to induce the software to perceive a driver shortage and increase the rate of pay. Offering a new theory of the organizational structure of Uber, she explained how this structure was particularly apt at mobilizing large numbers of people to breach the regulatory system by working as Uber drivers doing the equivalent of taxi or livery work without complying with any of the applicable legal regulations. The U.S. National Science Foundation funded a follow-up comparative study of Uber drivers in Copenhagen, Denmark, which Robinson conducted in 2017.

Prior to joining the Northeastern faculty in 2018,  Professor Robinson was a visiting assistant professor in the Science in Society Program at Wesleyan University, where she taught courses including Science and Technology in the Supreme Court’s Current Term and Transnational Comparison of Technology Regulation in the US and Europe. She also spent three years on the faculty at Vermont Law School, where she taught Constitutional Law as well as new seminars she created in Law and “Techno” Privacy, and Agricultural Biotechnology and the Law. She has also taught at MIT as a teaching fellow.

Professor Robinson has previously written about the impact of technology on judicial interpretation of corporate rights, particularly in the Supreme Court’s decisions concerning the regulation of speech during an election, in an article published in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change (the article won the 2015 James W. Carey Media Research Award). Her other area of scholarly interest concerns the interactions among street-level police practices, DNA databases and legal determinations of criminal culpability. She received an AB, magna cum laude, from Harvard University with a special concentration in genomic science and public policy, and her JD from Harvard Law School, where she was co-chairwoman of the Women’s Law Association and served as the Reginald F. Lewis Fellow for Law Teaching in 2006-2007. She has also worked as a senior policy analyst in the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, and as a visiting researcher at Georgetown University Law Center.

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Related Schools & Departments

  • Education

    AB, 2003, Harvard College
    JD, 2006, Harvard Law School
    PhD, 2017, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Contact

  • Address

    360 Huntington Ave.
    Boston, MA 02115