JDs Leave Torts Behind For Accounting

harvard law schoolNew Harvard Law School Program Aims For ‘Systematic Justice’

Harvard Law School has a brand new class for the spring 2015 semester. And in the new class comes a potential new approach to legal education. It’s called systematic justice. And even though professor Jon Hansen admits that no one really knows what systematic justice is, there are still 50-some students taking the course.
The class was created based on survey results of last year’s graduating cohort. Traditionally, students come to law school and are instructed on existing laws and cases and how those apply to how the law works now. The survey showed students are more interested in and concerned about big unsolved social problems like income inequality, racial bias in policing and climate change.
Instead of examining past court decisions and legislation and applying that to today, students are asked to look deeply into the common causes of historical injustices and use activism and law to address those issues. Or, to look at systematic injustices and figure out how policy, law making and lawyers can switch those injustices into systematic justice.
Students in the class are not listening to a lecture. They are examining social issues. Then Hansen asks them questions to get them thinking like a lawyer. Hansen believes legal education has put too much emphasis on what the law is and has been and not enough on what it should be. That is, legal education should start with the problems in the world now, and how to fix those problems.
Hansen is also attempting to change the focus off the individual in legal education. Lawyers spend a lot of time focusing on the individual they are representing. At the same time, similar individuals across the nation are experiencing the same issue. Hansen says, why not take a step away from the individual and look at the problem as a societal issue.
In terms of racial bias in policing, the new approach would not look at one issue or event (Ferguson), but would instead shift the focus to the deep psychological roots to why racial bias exists in policing.
It is obviously too early to tell if this will catch on at Harvard or any other school across the nation. But if nothing else, it is a unique way to look at legal education and is garnering some conversation.
Source: Boston Globe

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