Columbia Law Expands J-Term Offerings for Upper-Year and LL.M. Students

The one-week courses offered in January 2023 provided 2Ls, 3Ls, and LL.M.s the opportunity to intensively explore topics such as regulating cryptocurrencies, managing creative enterprises, and lawyering in the technology and venture capital space.

Thinker sculpture with snow

For January Term 2023, Columbia Law School doubled the number of one-week, one-credit electives for upper-year and LL.M. students. “This year, we focused on adding new courses in law and technology, which is a rapidly developing field,” says Matthew C. Waxman, Liviu Librescu Professor of Law, who oversaw the J-Term curriculum.

Launched in 2018, J-Term is designed for pedagogical innovation—a way for students to learn differently and professors to teach differently. J-Term classes are taught both by full-time faculty and lecturers in law who are often distinguished alumni or practitioners.

“Taking a course where you’re meeting every day allows for continuous discussion, and there aren’t the distractions of other classes for both students and faculty,” says Waxman. “It’s also an opportunity for instructors to teach important subjects or skills for which the J-Term format works better than the semester format.”

For students, J-Term is an opportunity to “get out of their comfort zone,” says Waxman, because the courses are not graded. “And for instructors, J-Term is a great format to experiment with new courses or teaching methods, which can sometimes grow into semester-long offerings.”

Learn about the J-Term upper-year courses below.


The Law, Regulation, Policy, and Politics of Cryptocurrencies

Taught by Lecturer in Law Benjamin Lawsky CC ’92, LAW ’95, the former New York State superintendent of financial services, The Law, Regulation, Policy, and Politics of Cryptocurrencies capitalized on the crypto crisis set in motion by the arrest of cryptocurrency exchange FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried in December 2022. Lawksy led discussions examining the role of regulators, prosecutors, and policymakers in the crypto space.

Lawyering and Managing Creative Enterprise

Tom Rothman ’80, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group, traveled to New York from California to teach Lawyering and Managing Creative Enterprise. He used case studies to explore the legal, practical, and emotional challenges involved in harnessing creativity to commercial ends not only in entertainment but also in sports and the innovation economy. The course also provided a lens into the work of in-house counsel at a global corporation.

Russia in the International Disorder

Lecturer in Law Delphine Nougayrède, an attorney specializing in international transactional law who’s practiced in Russia and Europe, called this course “Russia in the International Order” in two previous J-Terms. Now that Russia is at war with Ukraine, it’s called Russia in the International Disorder with a new lens through which to examine Russia as a disruptor of the rules-based international order in areas such as human rights, multilateral institutions, and economic affairs. The course also considered the Western legal response in the form of sanctions and exclusion from multilateral institutions and the transformation of the European energy trade.

Patent Prosecution for Litigators and Entrepreneurs

Intellectual property is the lifeblood of the tech sector, and Patent Prosecution for Litigators and Entrepreneurs focused on the process of patenting an invention. Co-taught by Gregory Passa ’20 and Clarisa Long, Max Mendel Shaye Professor of Intellectual Property Law, the course also covered the prosecution process and gave students practice drafting and client counseling.

Technology and Venture Capital

In this innovation-oriented course, students learned about “Silicon Valley-style lawyering” from three experts: Shawn Pelsinger and Sean Stenstrom, who work at Palantir Technologies, a Silicon Valley-based company that builds software to enable organizations to perform powerful analysis of data at scale; and Ryan Dzierniejko, a partner in the capital markets practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Technology and Venture Capital offered an insider’s perspective on how attorneys serve start-up technology companies and their investors, both as outside and in-house counsel.

Theater of Change: Reimagining Justice Through Abolition

The long-running course and practicum taught by Susan P. Sturm, George M. Jaffin Professor of Law and Social Responsibility, were born from a collaboration between the Law School and the Broadway Advocacy Coalition, an arts-based organization dedicated to bridging the worlds of arts, justice, and education to build new collaborative methods to address social justice issues. In Theater of Change: Reimagining Justice Through Abolition, students learned to tell powerful stories—both themselves and in collaboration with artists and community members—and use legal knowledge and skills to amplify artists’ and community activists’ impact in venues where laws are made and power is exercised.

Religious Freedom and Reproductive Rights

A sense of urgency permeated Religious Freedom and Reproductive Rights taught by Micah Schwartzman, a visiting professor from the University of Virginia School of Law, who writes and teaches about law and religion. His syllabus addressed whether abortion restrictions violate the free exercise rights of those who are religiously motivated to seek, provide, or facilitate abortion services and whether abortion bans can be challenged under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Practicing International Law: Maritime Conflicts and Law of the Sea

The simulation-oriented seminar focused on the legal regime that applies to more than 70% of the earth's surface, touching on vital strategic and economic interests of governments around the world. “It’s a critically important area of law that’s not usually featured in international law survey courses,” says Waxman, who co-taught Practicing International Law: Maritime Conflicts and Law of the Sea with Lecturer in Law Robert Harris, assistant legal adviser for East Asia and Pacific affairs in the U.S. Department of State.

Sources and Uses of Art Financing

Students interested in transactional law and dealmaking explored the intersection of art, law, and finance in Sources and Uses of Art Financing taught by Lecture in Law Cathy Kaplan ’77, the retired former co-leader of Sidley Austin’s global finance practice. The course explored the funding needs of market participants (artists, collectors, dealers, museums, advisers, and speculators) and the providers of funds (banks and lending institutions, auction houses, art investment funds, and specialty art lenders), as well as how to evaluate and measure risks associated with art and collectibles.

Commercial Payments

The global economy runs on commercial payments, and it’s one of the most significant areas of law not regularly taught at law schools. Ronald Mann, Albert E. Cinelli Enterprise Professor of Law, offered students a compressed introduction in Commercial Payments to the payment systems—wire transfers, letters of credit, and transitions in securities—most directly relevant to the practicing transactional lawyer.

Advanced Topics in Constitutional Law 

In Advanced Topics in Constitutional Law, Adjunct Professor of Law Andrew Kent focused in-depth on five general areas of constitutional controversy: abortion rights after the Dobbs decision; race-based affirmative action; First Amendment exemptions from generally applicable rules (e.g., anti-discrimination laws); separation of powers disputes raised by Donald Trump’s presidency and post-presidency; and the role, legitimacy, and possible reform of the U.S. Supreme Court.