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Innovative Teaching

A Message from the Dean

At Columbia Law School, classrooms are the most important rooms on campus. Our students are training to become leaders for the world. Needless to say, this is an exciting opportunity for the faculty, and we are honored (and a bit humbled) by this awesome responsibility. It is important for us to know our students personally, and we want to prepare them for the exciting challenges that lie ahead.

Being a part of one of the world's great universities—in a city that is perhaps the world's most exciting legal market—is a remarkable advantage. The intellectual resources we can bring to the classroom simply cannot be matched anywhere else. Like the practice of law at the highest level, our curriculum is global, interdisciplinary, and rigorously practical. I like to say that you cannot build an ivory tower in Manhattan because the skyscrapers block the view. Our goal is not to teach students abstractions, but to prepare them for the very hard real-world problems they will face when they leave us.

In recent years, our faculty have created a number of innovative courses in areas ranging from national security to international trade to bankruptcy. This booklet highlights 10 of those offerings, giving a brief sampling of the intellectual ferment in our classrooms.

In the Deals course, for example, students are given a stack of documents from an actual business transaction, such as a public merger or a venture-capital deal. The students identify the economic problems in the deal and the solutions the parties used to solve them. The following week, a guest lecturer—the lawyer who actually implemented the transaction—provides a window into the parties' deliberations.

In Trial in American Life, students compare the transcripts of actual trials with newspaper accounts of the trial. The goal is to understand, and to learn to manage, how a high-profile trial will be perceived in society at large, which helps students sharpen their advocacy skills.

In Theory & Practice of Workplace Equity, students do field research, studying a company, a nonprofit group, or a governmental organization to understand the processes it uses to curtail discriminatory practices. The goal is to understand which processes work (or do not work) in a particular context, and why.

Needless to say, these offerings are at the cutting edge of the legal academy. By contrast, you can compare them to the course listings from 1889-90. You will see just how far the Law School and the law itself have come.

David M. Schizer

Dean of the Faculty of Law
and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law