Professors Nelson Tebbe and Frederic Bloom inaugurated the Brooklyn Legal Theory Colloquium during the 2012 spring semester. The colloquium, which met once a week, was designed to engage students and faculty in conversation about current work in legal theory. Every other session, students would read a piece of cutting-edge scholarship. The idea was to prepare for the following week, when the author of the work would visit the law school to discuss it with them. The subjects covered in the Colloquium included cultural cognition, new governance, linguistic approaches to constitutional theory, the new originalism, and innovative forms of contracts.
Bloom said that it was especially gratifying to see the students engage on a high level with the speakers, members of the faculty, and each other. “The colloquium offered a warm, collegial environment for intensive conversation, but it was only one place for those conversations to occur. Even after the formal presentation and discussion were over, students and faculty remained thoroughly engaged with the day’s topic, continuing to discuss, debate, and deliberate,” he said. “The semester came together in a wonderfully organic way. It was especially meaningful to watch the students find their voices in this setting.”
Every student produced some writing on every paper that was discussed. They would share those thoughts with each other before meeting as a group to discuss the author’s work. “We were thrilled when, after the first presenter, students asked to meet outside of our regular class time to debrief the conversation,” Tebbe said.
“The colloquium afforded me the opportunity to explore a rich landscape of topics with similarly curious and seriously bright and committed students,” said Emily Powers ’12. “We confronted a wide variety of seemingly unrelated academic pieces that we discovered were in fact stitched together into an integrated whole by common themes. The depth with which we engaged the guest speakers' pieces prior to their visits made those visits especially rewarding. We were well prepared and unafraid to engage with what would otherwise have been intimidating intellects.”
Brooklyn Law School faculty members regularly attended the colloquium. “For faculty to participate as they did during an incredibly busy semester was a tremendous act of professional generosity,” Bloom remarked. “We all benefited tremendously from having those faculty members there,” Tebbe added.
Professor Christopher Serkin, who attended several sessions, described his experience: “Professors Tebbe and Bloom attracted some of the most powerful minds in the legal academy. The colloquium gave me a chance to engage with the most cutting-edge scholarship in constitutional theory, adding tremendously to the intellectual life of the school. I was also extremely proud of our students for the insights that they brought to the discussion week after week.”
That sentiment was echoed by Professor Susan Herman, who said that the colloquium “brought out the student in me, while it also brought out the constitutional law expertise of the participating students. It was just plain fun to watch all those ideas zinging around the room.”
The seven presenters were:
· Professor Nick Rosenkranz of Georgetown University Law Center presented The Subjects of the Constitution and The Objects of the Constitution.
· Professor Jamal Greene of Columbia University Law School presented Fourteenth Amendment Originalism and The Case for Original Intent.
· Professor Jack Balkin of Yale Law School presented his new book, Living Originalism.
· Professor Jason Solomon of William & Mary Law School presented The Supreme Court’s Theory of Private Law.
· Brooklyn Law School Professor William Araiza presented Reinventing Regulation/Reinventing Accountability: Judicial Review In New Governance Regimes.
· Visiting Professor Aditi Bagchi of the University of Pennsylvania presented Parallel Contract.
· Professor Dan Kahan of Yale Law School presented Fixing the Communications Failure, The Cognitively Illiberal State, and Foreword: Neutral Principles, Motivated Cognition, and Some Problems for Constitutional Law.
At the final gathering of the semester, students organized a surprise toast to their professors and the week’s guest speaker for creating such an enriching program. Elizabeth Dahill ’12, who gave the toast, said, “Participating in this colloquium is what I hoped law school would be like when I came here. This is the best way to end my law school career.”