Instructor(s): Kerry Rittich

For graduate students, the course number is LAW7081HS.

Note: This course is mandatory for students in the LL.M. (Legal Theory) concentration.

Note: This course satisfies the Perspective course requirement.

Every interpretation of law, every project of transformation through law, every effort at law reform has a tacit theory of the law underlying it. Similarly, every research project involving law rests on some theory of law, however partial or even contradictory.

This course aims to advance the understanding and evaluation of legal theories through the exploration of questions such as the following: How do legal theories conceptualize the nature and operation of law, and how do they imagine law in relation to society and the economy? What are their implications for legal rules and institutions and the actors who interpret and enforce law?

This course is designed to survey the rich and diverse theoretical frameworks that have been developed for the analysis of law and legal institutions, particularly within the Anglo-American legal tradition. We will examine the analytic presuppositions and normative commitments of a range of legal theories, from natural law, analytic jurisprudence and contemporary theories of rights to interdisciplinary theories about law drawing on philosophy, political theory, economics, anthropology and sociology. Foundational inquiries in the course include: the nature of adjudication and legal reasoning; the sources of legal authority and legitimacy; the relationship between law and morality and law and politics, including the conceptions of justice and equality furthered by liberal theories of rights; and relations among competing legal orders.

Seminar readings will be drawn from the following schools of thought: natural law theories, American Legal Realism, legal process, law and economics and critical legal studies, feminist legal theory, comparative law theory and method, and legal pluralism, including Aboriginal legal traditions.

This is a three hour seminar course, based on the following components: 30% - three comments of 750 - 1,000 words during the term on weekly readings, submitted before class; 10% - seminar participation; 60% - final paper (about 5,000 words), approved in advance by the professor, further exploring the themes, problems and applications of the course materials.

At a Glance

Second Term
Perspective course


9 JD


M: 2:10 - 4:00