An Overview of Our Seminar

Our seminar began at the University of Pennsylvania Law School as a reading group, initiated and run by students interested in critical theory, including feminist legal theory and critical race theory.  These students perceived a gap in the law school curriculum, and a pressing intellectual, professional, and personal need to explore the assumptions and frameworks underlying legal institutions and doctrine. They assembled a diverse group of students interested in different aspects of critical theory and in participating in a collaborative learning project. They developed a curriculum that included articles, legal cases, poetry, newspaper articles, and other materials. They applied this theoretical work to specific issues such as the first amendment, affirmative action, and critical lawyering. They met weekly as a group, and they rotated responsibility among themselves for facilitating the classes. They used a variety of pedagogical styles and methods, from small group discussion to role-plays to multi-media exercises.

The students threw themselves into the class with an enthusiasm and commitment that was rare in our experience. The class was so dynamic and engaging, and the expressed need for a course on critical race and feminist theory so intense, that we decided to offer the seminar on a regular basis. The seminars that followed have focused on issues of race, class and gender, as well as the role of lawyers in promoting (or preventing) progressive social change. The seminar prompts students to grapple with their own position in relation to law, the legal profession, and legal education. It also presses them to generate new approaches to problems involving race and gender, law, the legal profession and issues of social change.