Students buying textbooks

Beyond the Casebook Series

Columbia Law School's Beyond the Casebook initiative offers 1Ls the opportunity to discuss timely, relevant issues outside of the classroom setting. The series includes intimate faculty-student discussion groups as well as larger-scale events organized around faculty research and publications. 

    Professor Bert Huang meets with students on Revson Plaza

    Faculty-Student Conversation

    Beyond the confines of the classroom, faculty join small groups of students in dialogue about legal, moral, and societal concerns.

    A student walks past a shelf of books in the Diamond Law Library

    Politically Engaged Discussions

    Students gather to dissect issues in the headlines, such as racial and economic inequality, through the lens of the laws and frameworks they are learning in their first-year classes. 

    Students at orientation in orange chairs

    Community Building

    Alongside the first-year curriculum, students connect and form relationships with their peers in a novel educational format. 

    Professor David Pozen

    "Many 1L instructors strive to connect their course material to urgent concerns of the day, from racial injustice to economic inequality to anti-democratic developments.  But there is only so much that can be covered in any given class.  This lunch series offers students the opportunity to engage with faculty—and with one another—on a range of critical legal issues that cut across the curriculum, in a setting that is morally and intellectually serious while also being warm and informal."

    2021-2022 Discussion Topics

    This year's discussions will center on the theme of “lawyers and the challenges of inclusive democracy” and topics include: 

    • Authoritarianism and Democratic Crises
    • Climate Change
    • Corporate and Private Power
    • COVID-19 Pandemic
    • Economic Inequality
    • Federalism 
    • Lawyering, Leadership, and Ethics
    • Policing and Criminal Justice Reform
    • Racial and Ethnic Inclusion
    • Supreme Court Reform 
    Professor and Dean Olatunde Johnson teaching in front of a blackboard

    "The Beyond the Casebook series is a vibrant space for discussing the issues that brought many students to law school, including racial and economic inequality, climate change, and the future of constitutional democracy in America."

    Related Faculty Books

    Law in the Time of COVID-19 book cover

    Law in the Time of COVID-19

    The COVID-19 crisis has ended and upended lives around the globe. In addition to killing over 160,000 people, more than 35,000 in the United States alone, its secondary effects have been as devastating. These secondary effects pose fundamental challenges to the rules that govern our social, political, and economic lives. These rules are the domain of lawyers. Law in the Time of COVID-19 is the product of a joint effort by members of the faculty of Columbia Law School and several law professors from other schools.

    Cover of Repair by Katherine Franke

    Repair: Redeeming the Promise of Abolition

    Katherine Franke makes a powerful case for reparations for Black Americans by amplifying the stories of formerly enslaved people and calling for repair of the damage caused by the legacy of American slavery. Repair invites readers to explore the historical context for reparations, offering a detailed account of the circumstances that surrounded the emancipation of enslaved Black people in two unique contexts, the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Davis Bend, Mississippi, Jefferson Davis’s former plantation. Through these two critical historical examples, Franke unpacks intergenerational, systemic racism and white privilege at the heart of American society and argues that reparations for slavery are necessary, overdue and possible.

    The Perilous Pubic Square book cover

    The Perilous Public Square: Structural Threats to Free Expression Today

    The Perilous Public Square brings together leading thinkers to identify and investigate today’s multifaceted threats to free expression. They go beyond the campus and the courthouse to pinpoint key structural changes in the means of mass communication and forms of global capitalism. Beginning with Tim Wu’s inquiry into whether the First Amendment is obsolete, Matthew Connelly, Jack Goldsmith, Kate Klonick, Frederick Schauer, Olivier Sylvain, and Heather Whitney explore ways to address these dangers and preserve the essential features of a healthy democracy. Their conversations with other leading thinkers, including Danielle Keats Citron, Jelani Cobb, Frank Pasquale, Geoffrey R. Stone, Rebecca Tushnet, and Kirsten Weld, cross the disciplinary boundaries of First Amendment law, internet law, media policy, journalism, legal history, and legal theory, offering fresh perspectives on fortifying the speech system and reinvigorating the public square.

    Cover of How Rights Went Wrong by Jamal Greene

    How Rights Went Wrong: Why Our Obsession with Rights is Tearing America Apart

    You have the right to remain silent – and the right to free speech. The right to worship, and to doubt. The right to be free from discrimination, and to hate. The right to life, and the right to own a gun. Rights are a sacred part of American identity. Yet they also are the source of some of our greatest divisions. We believe that holding a right means getting a judge to let us do whatever the right protects. And judges, for their part, seem unable to imagine two rights coexisting – reducing the law to winners and losers. The resulting system of legal absolutism distorts our law, debases our politics, and exacerbates our differences rather than helping to bridge them. As renowned legal scholar Jamal Greene argues, we need a different approach – and in How Rights Went Wrong, he proposes one that the Founders would have approved. 

    Book cover: Two Cheers for Politics by Jedediah Purdy

    Two Cheers for Politics: Why Democracy is Flawed, Frightening—and Our Best Hope

    Americans across the political spectrum agree that our democracy is in crisis. We view our political opponents with disdain, if not terror, and an increasing number of us are willing to consider authoritarian alternatives. In Two Cheers for Politics, Jedediah Purdy argues that this heated political culture is a symptom not of too much democracy but too little. Today, the decisions that most affect our lives and our communities are often made outside the political realm entirely, as market ideology, constitutional law, and cultural norms effectively remove broad swaths of collective life from the table of collective decision. The result is a weakened and ineffective political system, and an increasingly unequal and polarized society. If we wish to renew that society, we’ll need to claw back the ground that we’ve ceded to anti-politics and entrust one another with the power to shape our common life.

    This Land is Our Land: The Struggle for a New Commonwealth book cover

    This Land Is Our Land: The Struggle for a New Commonwealth

    Today, we are at a turning point as we face ecological and political crises that are rooted in conflicts over the land itself. But these problems can be solved if we draw on elements of our tradition that move us toward a new commonwealth—a community founded on the well-being of all people and the natural world. In this brief, powerful, timely, and hopeful book, Jedediah Purdy, one of our finest writers and leading environmental thinkers, explores how we might begin to heal our fractured and contentious relationship with the land and with each other.

    Areas of Study
    Image of cover of The Code of Capital by Katharina Pistor

    The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality

    Capital is the defining feature of modern economies, yet most people have no idea where it actually comes from. What is it, exactly, that transforms mere wealth into an asset that automatically creates more wealth? The Code of Capital explains how capital is created behind closed doors in the offices of private attorneys, and why this little-known fact is one of the biggest reasons for the widening wealth gap between the holders of capital and everybody else. In this revealing book, Katharina Pistor argues that the law selectively “codes” certain assets, endowing them with the capacity to protect and produce private wealth. 

    Participating Faculty

    James Comey

    • Senior Research Scholar in the Faculty of Law and Lecturer in Law
    Professor Philip Genty

    Philip M. Genty

    • Everett B. Birch Innovative Teaching Clinical Professor in Professional Responsibility and Vice Dean for Experiential Education
    Avery Katz

    Avery W. Katz

    • Milton Handler Professor of Law and Reuben Mark Professor of Organizational Character
    Dean Gillian Lester smiling while wearing an orange jacket

    Gillian Lester

    • Dean of the Faculty of Law and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law
    Lance Liebman

    Lance Liebman

    • William S. Beinecke Professor of Law Emeritus and Dean Emeritus
    David Pozen

    David Pozen

    • Vice Dean for Intellectual Life and Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law
    Susan Sturm

    Susan P. Sturm

    • George M. Jaffin Professor of Law and Social Responsibility