Students Explore Cutting-Edge Legal Topics in Expanded Winter Offerings

The one-week J-Term includes new classes on empirical methods, social justice advocacy, financial methods, and transnational law.

During this January’s J-Term, Columbia Law faculty will offer 15 intensive one-week classes designed to expose students to a wide range of cutting-edge legal topics, innovative pedagogical approaches, and experiential learning opportunities.

Building on the success of last year’s inaugural J-Term, the Law School has tripled its course offerings for 2019. The six new Legal Methods II courses for first-year students augment the Law School’s signature three-week Legal Methods course that precedes the fall semester, when students are introduced to legal systems and case analysis. In the Legal Methods II courses, 1Ls continue to develop foundational skills while pushing their intellectual boundaries and exploring new practice areas.

 “J-Term is a chance to take a chance,” says Dean of Students Yadira Ramos-Herbert. “We are giving 1Ls the time to dig deeper into a specific topic between semesters of their first year. It’s also a time when faculty and advisers will help students take stock of what they’ve accomplished already and how their goals may have changed since taking Legal Methods I.”

Here are brief synopses of the Legal Methods II courses:


  • In Empirical Methods, aspiring scholars and policymakers will be introduced to the empirical methods that are now fundamental to academic and government work. Taught by the economist Richard Holden, a visiting professor from the University of New South Wales Business School in Sydney, the course will examine how empirical methods have been applied in research on topics including crime, sentencing, judicial behavior, immigration, and gerrymandering.



  • Students will be schooled in the Methods of Persuasion by Philip M. Genty, the Everett B. Birch Innovative Teaching Clinical Professor in Professional Responsibility. Through simulated case materials, participants will apply the fundamental tools of persuasion in group presentations on domestic litigation; international litigation; domestic and international arbitration; mediation and negotiation; or government and policy.


  • Jane Ginsburg, the Morton L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law, and David Louk, an associate in law, are co-teaching Methods of Statutory Drafting and Interpretation. Working in group simulations, students will draft proposed statutes, assume the role of regulators to anticipate problems with their implementation, and serve as judges to interpret them in specific scenarios.


  • Social Justice Advocacy is being taught by Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and the faculty director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project. The class will combine lectures, outside speakers, practicums, and group work so students learn the methods that social-movement lawyers employ to combat structural racism, sexism, homophobia, economic inequality, and other forms of oppression.


  • Sarah Cleveland, the Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights and faculty co-director of the Human Rights Institute, is teaching Transnational Law and Legal Process. Through lectures, outside speakers, and written group work, students will gain an understanding of how law operates across borders and the skills required to be a lawyer in this realm.


For second- and third-year students, nine one-credit electives will be offered.

Matthew Waxman, the Liviu Librescu Professor of Law, who helps coordinate the upper-year J-Term curriculum, says professors are using J-Term as an opportunity to explore new modes of teaching and student engagement. “We want students to dive into a subject they’re interested in or try something outside of their comfort zone,” says Waxman.

This year’s courses include three focused on the intersection of law and technology: Computational Text Analysis and Chinese Law (which will be held at the University of California, San Diego, and co-taught by Columbia professor Benjamin Liebman, Robert L. Lieff Professor of Law and the director of the Law School’s Center for Chinese Legal Studies); The Technology, Business, Law, and Policy of AI (including the legal, ethical, and policy challenges of artificial intelligence); and Data and Predictive Coding for Lawyers (which requires no previous mathematical knowledge and introduces the fundamentals of statistics and machine learning). Below are the other upper-class courses:



In addition, the J-Term week will include special programming such as a required workshop for 1Ls on Navigating Difficult Conversations, which will cover how students can speak more effectively and sensitively with peers and professors in and out of the classroom. There also will be networking events sponsored by Social Justice Initiatives and the Office of Career Services and Professional Development.

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Published on December 13, 2018