Unusual Law School Classes

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37 Responses

  1. Bruce says:

    You forgot “Law and What I’m Thinking About”.

  2. Cathy says:

    Rhetoric and Copyright, taught by Wendy Gordon at Boston University.

    I took the first iteration of the course last year and she’s doing it again this year. We examined the rhetorical arguments underlying copyright policy, while at the same time honing our general rhetorical skills. The class included a writing workshop component and an oral presentation workshop component. Richard Lanham gave a guest-lecture on the writing part, and Richard Stallman on the IP policy part. The class was also co-taught by Shakespearean actor Jonny Epstein. Shakespeare and Aristotle were both drawn from heavily as part of the pedagogy as well.


  3. Unusual Law School Classes:

    Over at Concurring Opinions, Dan Solove is seeking input on “unusual” law school classes. Dan starts off with a list of some of the classes offered when he was a stu…

  4. jallgor says:

    Law & Pop Culture: UCLA School of Law (where else?)

  5. O. Kerr says:

    Alan Dershowitz used to co-teach “Thinking About Thinking” at Harvard, cross-listed with a number of other departments. The final exam in the class from 1996 is here.

  6. Doug says:

    My favorite class at Columbia Law School was Biblical Jurisprudence taught by George Fletcher and Suzanne Stone. The class was talking the informing of issues by the history of the human race as told through the Bible. In addition to the two teachers (who were very knowledge on religion in general and Judaism in particular), we had a presybeterin minister, a Jesuit priest, a Muslim scholar, an evangelical Christian, a devout atheist, and several European Christians/skeptics. As such, the class was a hodgepodge of ideas that could barely make it through two or three verses of scripture in the three hour class.

    The current class is focusing on how war and sacrifice are treated in the Bible.

  7. Medis says:

    Chicago (not surprisingly) offers a lot of unusual courses, particularly within the Greenberg Seminar program. One of my favorite Greenberg Seminar titles from last year was “Degenerate Law”. From this year’s list I would nominate “Seductive Theories”.

  8. Milbarge says:

    I’ll guess that Prof. Calabresi taught “Tragic Choices,” since he wrote the book of the same name.

  9. Another Eli says:

    Harlan Dalton offered a course at Yale called just “Law,” but if memory serves it was canceled because it was undersubscribed. For those familiar with Yale Law School’s curriculum, this is hilarious on a number of levels.

  10. Unusual Law School Classes

    Dan Solove at Concurring Opinions has an interesting post up on unusual law school classes. Definitely worth checking out. Ben Barros

  11. Another Eli — I actually recall hearing about the course called “Law” — it was offered, I believe, a year after I graduated. I believe it involved reading from one volume of the Federal Reporter and just covering all the cases in it. I could be wrong about this, however. I’d love to track down the course description for the course. Can anybody dig it up from their old course bulletins? I bet it would have been taught sometime in 1997 or 1998 (maybe 1999, but that might be too late).

  12. chicago grad says:

    Chicago had a course called “the law of early china” or something equally esoteric.

  13. Simon says:

    Two favorites from Michigan: Faking It, taught by Bill Miller, and Brian Simpson’s The Boundaries of the Market.

  14. Adam says:

    I took “The Tyranny of Abstraction” at Chicago, a course on the failure of Theory to explain everything.

  15. Trent says:

    Another Bill Miller course (Michigan):

    “Bloodfeuds”: An investigation of disputing and dispute processing in Iceland of the saga age with side glances at pre-Conquest England and some contemporary pre-industrial, kin-based cultures. Course materials include translations of Icelandic family sagas and early law; there are also assigned readings in secondary historical and anthropological works.


  16. This guy says:

    USC Law offers the riveting “Acting for Lawyers” which should be no surprise in TinselTown….

  17. UVa student says:

    Richard Bonnie teaches this course at Virginia:


    This course will address the growing gap between the need for kidneys, livers and other organs for transplantation and the supply of available organs. The areas to be explored are the moral basis of organ donation, the reasons for the low rate of donation, the current legal structure of organ procurement, and the possible policy solutions to the problem. The course will be coordinated with the work of the Institute of Medicine Committee on Increasing the Rate of Organ

    Donation on which the instructor is serving.

  18. Paul Gowder says:

    My favorite unusual law school courses were actually normal-sounding classes with totally abnormal treatments of the subject matter. Charlie Nesson’s Evidence, of course, is King of this genre (and I learned much more there than one would learn in a traditional evidence class). David Rosenberg’s Federal Litigation class traditionally bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the description in the catalog or to anything else… but possibly the best course title I’ve ever seen in the HLS catalog is “Beyond Biology.” “Law, Psychology and Morality: An Exploration Through Film,” is a close second. It appears that today there’s a “Power, Beauty, Sex and Violence” reading group…

  19. Laura I Appleman says:

    Let’s not forget the classic YLS course, “Procreation and the Law of Family,” taught by Dr. Jay Katz, all about reproductive technology. A fantastic course that had the extra added benefit of shocking various law firm partners & judges during interviews. Truly, the pained look on their faces when they asked if I really had taken a course about sex in my first year of law school was just priceless.

  20. Thanks for the comments so far. I might gather together some of my favorites from your comments in a post later on.

    Also, I’ll post the answers to the quiz later this week.

    So please keep submitting courses and course descriptions. And if anybody can track down the description for the YLS course called “Law” by Prof. Dalton, it would be greatly appreciated.

  21. Avery Katz says:

    Here at Columbia Law School, we have a popular course called “Deals,” taught by Ron Gilson and Victor Goldberg.

  22. Nate Oman says:

    When I was in law school I took a course that was called “Property” (apparently not required at YLS) that I thought was pretty strange.

    We essentially studied the genesis and evolution of a bunch of rules related to the regulation of feudal society and then tried to apply them to modern situations. There were all of these strange epicycles like the Rule in Shelly’s Case (a real name) and stuff about perpetuities. It was a fun intellectual endeavor as a matter of historical and antiquarian interest, but I didn’t think that it really had any contemporary applications.

  23. Paul Gowder says:

    Nate: hah! I can top that. I took a class supposedly about economic analysis… of law!

  24. gulcalum says:

    cross-posted from Volokh Conspiracy:

    When I was at Georgetown, I took a class with Prof. Neal Katyal called “Clinton.” We studied Morrison v. Olson and the ICA, the secret service privilege case, Clinton v. Jones, the government attorney client privilege case, the Swidler Berlin case (Sup Ct case involving whether Vince Foster’s attorney-client privilege survived him), impeachment issues, etc, etc. Guest speakers included Ken Starr, Bob Bennett, Asa Hutchinson, and Monica Lewinsky, though not, for some reason, the course’s namesake. This was, as I recall, fall semester 1999. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

  25. Rick says:

    I took a course at Yale — a wonderful course — called “Administering Death”, taught by Bo Burt.

  26. The Fried Man says:

    In a self-referential meta stroke of brilliance, a Yale Law barrister’s union trial focused on fictional events that took place in a fictional course called “Law and the Law.” Anear Afar was the fictional professor, and strongly resembled Akhil Amar.

  27. Law and basket-weaving

    Dan Solove has a post recounting the amusinc course offerings from his days here at Yale. I confess that I cannot sort out which professors match which courses, in part because it is just too easy to envision so many…

  28. Law and basket-weaving

    Dan Solove has a post recounting the amusinc course offerings from his days here at Yale. I confess that I cannot sort out which professors match which courses, in part because it is just too easy to envision so many…

  29. Alfred Brophy says:

    Well, the historian in me leads me to another question: when did unusal law classes enter the legal academy? Even during the period of my primary interest–the years before the Civil War–some lectures would be considered by some of posters here as unusual. David Hoffman’s 1823 Lectures at the University of Maryland were pretty strange by standards of his contemporaries. (Maybe that’s why they weren’t popular.) And so were James Wilson’s 1791 lectures for that matter. Come to think of it, the introduction to book one of Blackstone’s Commentaries looks pretty strange to people concerned solely with the practice of law in the eighteenth century.

    But I’m guessing that a law school catalog from the 1950s don’t have courses like Bloodfueds. So the modern origins of the unusual courses are the late 1960s? Didn’t Borris Bitker teach a course in reparations at Yale in the early 1970s? Of course, going back to Solove’s first post, perhaps an interesting question is when did courses begin to be organized around a common object (like wine). Weren’t there courses in railroad law at the beginning of the twentieth century? I thought so, though perhaps I’m just confusing railroad law treatises with courses in railroad law.

  30. Last year, I taught a course on “The Law of Sprawl”; I’m actually writing an article about the course.


    1. Art, Love, and Power: A Philosophy of American Law

    (a) Jan Deutsch and J.L. Pottenger, Jr.

    2. Bearing Witness

    (f) Harlon Dalton

    3. The Law and Economics of Art and Mortality

    (e) Henry Hansmann

    4. Modernity

    (k) Paul Kahn and Anthony Kronman

    5. Tragic Choices

    (b) Guido Calabresi

    6. Is Constitutional Law Law?

    (h) Jan Deutsch

    7. Law and Grace

    (c) Paul Kahn

    8. Law, Secrets, and Lying

    (j) Stephen Carter

    9. Law and the Human Subject

    (f) Harlon Dalton

    10. Public Life in the Modern World

    (l) Owen Fiss and Anthony Kronman

    I took courses 5 and 7. Both were great.

  32. Unusual Law School Classes: Quiz Answer Key

    If you attempted to take the quiz I set out in my post earlier this week about unusual law school classes, I just posted the answer key in the comments to the post. Please continue to submit comments about your…

  33. Paul Secunda says:

    To follow up on Orin’s earlier comment, if memory serves right, Dershowitz taught “Thinking about Thinking” along with Stephen Jay Gould and John Rawls. It was a big hit with freshman at Harvard in the ’89-’90 cycle as part of the core curriculum.

  34. Jeremy A. Blumenthal says:

    Digression – “Thinking about Thinking” was with Alan, SJG, and Robert Nozick (not Rawls, which also would have been fascinating). VERY entertaining course, though lectures often were often more about the interplay among the profs than about the substance.

  35. nyujew says:

    Sexuality, Voice, and Resistance: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Neurobiology and Politics



    Course Description: The seminar examines the central place of sexual voice in resistance to basic injustices like anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, and homophobia. Our study asks why the repression of sexual voice (whether in celibacy or Puritanism) is often required by such injustices, and how questioning such repression energizes movements of resistance. Our interdisciplinary approach includes political philosophy, psychoanalysis, and neurobiology in understanding the body, voice, resonance, and truth in various historical and contemporary liberation movements. The seminar includes in its pedagogy experiments in freeing creative voice through multiple short papers each week, and theater exercises, including writing and staging plays with other students.