Join LPE at Law & Society 2020

Join LPE at the Law & Society Conference in 2020 as we expand the Law and Political Economy CRN (55)!

There are only two and half days left to apply to the Law and Society Association (LSA) Conference, which will be held in Denver, Colorado, May 28 – May 30, 2020. All paper, panel, and session proposals must be submitted to the LSA by November 20 (11:59pm EST). Please submit your proposal directly to LSA through the portal at https://www.lsadenver2020.org/ As outlined below, we invite you to use our Collaborative Research Network (CRN 55) for Law and Political Economy which will allow us to minimize scheduling conflicts and highlight papers and panels related to Law and Political Economy themes at the conference.

Corinne Blalock (corinne.blalock@yale.edu) and Luke Herrine (luke.herrine@yale.edu) are co-chairing the LSA Conference Committee for the CRN, so please feel free to reach out to them with any questions!

Instructions for Applying to LSA as Part of the Law & Political Economy CRN

1. Background Information on the CRN.  We take a broad view of the scope of Law and Political Economy. All scholars with an interest in law and political economy are welcome to participate in our CRN’s events.  Presenting your paper as part of the CRN’s program generally means a better fit for your paper and a larger audience than leaving it to the larger program committee, and helps foster connections between our participants.

2. How to Join the Law and Political Economy Program for the 2020 Conference.  At the LSA conference in Denver, we hope to continue and expand the conversation with another series of panels and events.  To this end, we have identified several options for CRN members to submit papers and panels:

a. Submit a Complete Panel or Roundtable Proposal.  If you have organized a complete panel or roundtable session, please submit it directly to the LSA and select “CRN 55: Law and Political Economy” from the drop-down menu on the submissions page.  The LSA website details the submission process: https://www.lsadenver2020.org/types-of-submissionsPlease note that selecting CRN 55 is very important because it will help the LSA to schedule our panels in a way that minimizes conflicts. It is wise to include at least 5 paper abstracts in case someone has to cancel before the conference, because sessions with less than 4 papers may be moved to a “roundtable” that may be banished to a terrible room where nobody can hear each other speak.

b. Submit an “Author Meets Reader” Session for a Recent Book.  These sessions can be organized for books with a copyright in 2019 or later and require participation of the author, a chair, and a max of 2 readers.

c. Submit a Paper to be Placed in a Panel on the CRN. If you have a paper to submit, please submit it directly to the LSA and select “CRN 55: Law and Political Economy” from the drop-down menu on the submissions page. LSA will then send all papers under this CRN to us, and we will organize them into panels. The LSA website details the submission process: https://www.lsadenver2020.org/types-of-submissionsPlease note that selecting CRN 55 is very important. If you do not, you will not be included in any LPE panels.

Disrupting Doctrine at Penn Law

This post continues our series featuring efforts to organize LPE student groups at several law schools. You can read the rest of the posts here.

Domenic Powell —

Screen Shot 2019-10-28 at 2.34.10 PMWhy do people who believe in a more just, egalitarian society go to law school? Some of us hope to learn how the law can be used to disrupt the status quo. At the very least, we hope to get the training that will let us “uphold the law” which, in theory, protects the marginalized.

Unfortunately, for students like us, those first weeks in law school can be deeply alienating and disappointing. We learn to “think like a lawyer” in a classroom shaped by decades—if not centuries—of doctrine favoring the rich and powerful. Very quickly, students are introduced to Law and Economics, which is presented not as a jurisprudential fashion or ideology, but as the inevitable, rational, scientific answer to what law must be in a modern society. In classrooms where “efficiency” is elevated over fairness, how could students committed to a democratic society not feel out of place? Students who believed that law might be a tool for achieving social change quickly learn that the law itself stands in the way of a more just future.

Instead of becoming disillusioned with the law, several students at Penn Law chose to join a movement to question the dogmas presented to us. We started Law Students for a Democratic Societywhat we’ve named our campus LPE groupto cultivate humanistic, politically conscious, radical lawyering at Penn Law.

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LPE Society at Berkeley Law

This post continues our series featuring efforts to organize LPE student groups at several law schools. You can read the rest of the posts here.

Sarang Shah — 

Screen Shot 2019-10-28 at 2.34.10 PMBerkeley holds a unique place in the public imagination as the home of the Free Speech Movement and the People’s Park protests, as Earl Warren’s alma mater, and as a reliable beacon of Left Coast progressivism. Berkeley also stands uniquely situated in the Bay Area, where climate change-induced fires, rampant inequality and homelessness, and an unaccountable tech industry have emerged as harbingers of a future headed toward catastrophe.

While Berkeley Law students are proximate to these crises, they are also privileged to have access to tools that can be used to build an alternative, better future. Unfortunately, there is an overwhelming pressure built into the law school experience itself that pushes students into a narrow range of career choices. Few of these careers encourage addressing broader structural concerns with the law. Instead, Berkeley Law graduates often wind up viewing law as unalterable and decaying plumbing, rather than as architecture that may be torn down, transformed, and rebuilt for a more just future.

I attended law school so that I might learn about how law generates inequality. I wanted to know how law got us to where we are today, where we may end up if we don’t change anything, and how we could use the law as a creative tool to get us to where we would rather go. Arriving to campus and finding these opportunities lacking, I sought to build a community around discussing how we can transform the law to encourage greater dignity and equality. Having been an avid follower of LPE Blog since its inception, I reached out to the blog organizers for help with bringing LPE to Berkeley. Since then, several of my colleagues and I have sought to make LPE a lasting and vibrant academic community at my law school with the indispensable help of our steering committee.

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LPE: A Rising Tide at Miami Law?

This post continues our series featuring efforts to organize LPE student groups at several law schools. You can read the rest of the posts here.

Maddie Seales and Amelia Daynes —  

Screen Shot 2019-10-28 at 2.34.10 PMOur introduction to Law & Political Economy came during the February 2019 Rebellious Lawyering Conference (“RebLaw”) at Yale Law School. The Miami Law chapter of the National Lawyers Guild sent six students to the conference, and three of those students attended the “Building the FedSoc of the Left” event organized by students from both Yale Law School and Harvard Law School. When those students returned to Miami Law, they reached out to other progressive Miami Law students and student organizations about these early efforts to organize the LPE Student Network, and other students got involved. Since then, students from Miami Law have been involved in the cross-campus organizing along with fellow students from Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, and University of Pennsylvania.

At Miami, we were particularly interested in adding LPE and critical legal theory courses to the curricular offerings at our school. Miami Law provides some institutional support for public interest—such as a center that connects students with pro bono opportunities, provides public interest scholarships and summer stipends, and oversees a student-run board to manage on-campus programing and fundraise for summer internship programs. But these public interest offerings do not create space for a more critical reflection on the law.

And in the classroom, it can be difficult for students, especially first year students, to find critical approaches to the law. First year students are allowed to take one elective course in their spring semester (only one of which can be explicitly considered a “social justice” elective); furthermore, the main 1L courses lack critical approaches. This dynamic leads to second-year public interest law students stretched beyond their means, doing anything and everything public interest and social justice they can get their hands on because they have not had that opportunity during their first year. Beyond this, the availability of courses that teach or engage with critical legal scholarship depends on what professors choose to teach. There are no courses devoted to critical legal approaches to the law. Thus, one goal of our LPE group is to demonstrate student interest in curriculum that engages with LPE and critical legal theories, in order to push the school to ensure that more of those courses are available and that existing courses incorporate critical approaches to a greater degree.

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Challenging Legal Education Through Student Activism at HLS

This post continues our series featuring efforts to organize LPE student groups at several law schools. You can read the rest of the posts here.

Ava Liu —   

Screen Shot 2019-10-28 at 2.34.10 PMAt Harvard, institutional spaces for students to think about topics of law and justice remain limited, especially during the first year of law school when we are pummeled with work. While Harvard Law School has a rich history of student organizing, especially around teaching and academic appointments, we have had limited success in curriculum reform the last few years. From 2015 to 2016, student activists in the Reclaim Harvard Law School movement demanded academic reform as part of their broader demands for racial justice, but there still remain no dedicated critical race theorists appointed to the Harvard Law School faculty. On campus, official student organizations sometimes seem out of touch with the broader conversations happening on the left. Furthermore, these groups have been aligned with an old Democratic Party consensus in ways that felt intellectually staid in the post-2016 climate. Before fall 2019, progressive efforts active on other campuses such as NLG have had little presence.

Within these limited spaces, the alienation I experienced as a 1L led me to pursue work organizing what is now Harvard’s LPE. I came into law school interested in understanding the law and its relationship to power, but found the first year curriculum to be largely inattentive to questions of power and distribution. In particular, I thought the primacy of law and economics was strange. Having studied political philosophy in undergrad, I found the normative focus on grounding efficiency as the supreme goal of the law in Torts and Property to be rather arbitrary. In most classes, and especially in courses around private law, we rarely discussed the simple question of whether an outcome was “fair.” Concerns of distributive justice never entered the fray even when law was the chief mechanism by which distribution was conducted. I suspect this was an experience shared by many other students.

When other students and I found the LPE movement and this blog, it felt like discovering room to breathe. Starting in the fall semester of 2018, students at Harvard Law School began organizing around themes of law and political economy, grounded broadly in economic justice and its intersections with race and gender. Our efforts include reading groups, academic conferences, speaker events, and an alternative curriculum effort to support critical legal scholarship.

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LPE Student Organizing at YLS

Over the past year, student organizing has become an important part of the Law and Political Economy Project. This week we’re highlighting the work of several LPE student chapters. We hope that by amplifying their work—the impetus behind the student network, the successes and challenges of different chapters, and the community that students are building around LPE—we can reach more students at more law schools. So professors, if you’re reading this, let your students know that there’s a student network eager to include them, and law students, we’re excited to meet you! 

If you’re interested in starting a chapter or doing LPE work at your law school, you can start by 

  1. signing up for our list serve to get connected to the network and get help launching your chapter,
  2. checking out our syllabi,
  3. reading our 1LPE series on LPE approaches to 1L courses

We’re starting the series with the Yale Law School chapter: 

Isabel Echarte — 

Screen Shot 2019-10-28 at 2.34.10 PMThe LPE student group at Yale Law School sprung from the same root as the broader LPE Project. In 2016, a group of students asked Amy Kapczynski to teach a seminar that would allow them to better understand the social, political, and legal structures that have led our society to the various crises it faces and that facilitated President Trump’s election. To build this first seminar, students pulled in scholarship from existing traditions like ClassCrits, Critical Race Theory, and APPEAL to locate the law’s role in our current political economic structure, as well as to understand how the law might be used to facilitate the work of movements seeking to build a better one.

This seminar gave rise to LPE Blog. The students wanted to continue the conversations they’d had in class and to bridge methodological and geographic divides by providing a space for legal scholars to engage each other on the central LPE questions. As the blog became more and more successful at facilitating academic conversations, and as demand for the LPE seminar grew to nearly 100 students (a sizeable share of the law school), students recognized the need for space outside of the blog and seminar. In particular, we were interested in expanding beyond academia to make LPE approaches relevant and accessible to students who want to practice law and to build networks with alumni and practitioners as well as students at other campuses. We are also interested in curriculum reform—in particular, unseating the dominance of Law and Economics in legal pedagogy and to provide a more robust and critical account of the role of racialized subordination and the patriarchy.

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