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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