Legal Ethics & Psychology Series

Recent Programs

Talk: Judges as Gatekeepers in Judicial Conflict Resolution

Tuesday, October 2

Michal Alberstein, Professor at The Faculty of Law, Bar Ilan University, will present her work: “Judges as Gatekeepers in Judicial Conflict Resolution.”

Sponsored by the Center for Law, Language & Cognition and the Dennis J. Block Center for the Study of International Law

Annual Ethics Roundtable: The Meritocracy Trap Daniel Markovits

Monday, October 29

The Meritocracy Trap
A Presentation by Daniel Markovits
Guido Calabresi Professor of Law, Yale Law School

About the Presentation
The meritocratic ideal—that social and economic rewards should track achievement rather than breeding—anchors the self-image of the age. Aristocracy has had its day; and meritocracy is now a basic tenet of civil religion in all advanced societies.
But an apt regard for training, skill, and industry has outgrown its proper purposes. Meritocracy places these virtues—immensely useful in moderation—into feed-back loops, through which they drive one another to ever-increasing extremes of hyper-development, generating massive economic inequality along the way. Meritocracy, embraced as the handmaiden of equality of opportunity, now concentrates advantage and sustains a toxic caste order.
Meritocratic inequality no longer tracks any independent virtue but instead reconstitutes skill and industry in its own unbalanced image: skill attends no object besides eliteness itself; and even the most intense industry produces nothing of general value. The meritocratic caste order benefits no-one; and the once-genuine virtues that long-ago founded the meritocratic order are rendered useless, even to those who possess them.  
Whatever its original purposes and early triumphs, meritocracy has become precisely what it was invented to combat. Merit itself is now a counterfeit virtue, a false idol, a sham.

About the Presenter
Daniel Markovits is Guido Calabresi Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He works in the philosophical foundations of private law, moral and political philosophy, and behavioral economics. He has written articles on contract, legal ethics, distributive justice, democratic theory, and other-regarding preferences. He has published books on contract law and legal ethics. His new book, Snowball Inequality: Meritocracy and the Crisis of Capitalism (under contract at Harvard University Press), will be published soon.
Lawrence Solan
Don Forchelli Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition, Brooklyn Law School

Prof. Heidi Brown Book Talk: The Introverted Lawyer

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

About the Book
While naturally loquacious law professors, law students, lawyers, and judges thrive in a world dominated by the Socratic question-and-answer method and rapid-fire oral discourse, quiet thinkers and writers can be sidelined. The Introverted Lawyer illuminates the valuable gifts that introverted, shy, and socially anxious individuals bring to the legal profession—including active listening, deep thinking, empathy, impactful legal writing, creative problem-solving, and thoughtful communication.

About the Author
Heidi K. Brown is a graduate of The University of Virginia School of Law, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School, and a former litigator in the construction industry. Having struggled with extreme public speaking anxiety and the perceived pressure to force an extroverted persona throughout law school and nearly two decades of law practice, she finally embraced her introversion and quiet nature as a powerful asset in teaching and practicing law. She is the author of a two-volume legal writing book series The Mindful Legal Writer, the winner of a Global Legal Skills award for her work in helping law students overcome public speaking anxiety in the context of the Socratic Method and oral arguments, and she was appointed to the Fulbright Specialist roster to teach English legal writing in international law schools. Heidi champions the power of quiet law students and lawyers to be profoundly impactful advocates in their authentic voices.

Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition

CLE Ethics Roundtable: Free Will as a Matter of Criminal Law

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

About the Program
Can we hold people morally responsible if their choices were determined by forces in the universe predating their birth? Do such age-old questions about free will matter to the law? The people who crafted the law probably didn't think of us as being constrained by the laws of physics. They probably believed that we have souls that can spontaneously choose to act maliciously. Since the crafters of the law aimed to punish evil-doing souls, they may never have intended to punish people like ourselves. Based on traditionally recognized sources of legal authority (such as lawmaker intent), the view that criminal law was never intended to apply to mechanistic humans may be more plausible than the view that the law was intended to punish people like us. This talk will discuss the relationship between free will and criminal law and argue that current law may change as we come to see human action as more machine-like and less reliant on a soul.

Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition

CLE Ethics Roundtable: Causal Judgment and Moral Judgment

Wednesday, March 8

About the Program

It has long been known that people's judgments about whether one thing caused another can impact their moral judgments. More recently, however, a series of studies has shown that there is in reality an effect in the opposite direction. That is, people's judgments about whether an action is morally good or morally bad can affect their judgments about whether that action was the cause of some further outcome. This program discussed this surprising effect and provided new evidence about the underlying cognitive processes that explain it.

Joshua Knobe
Professor of Philosophy, Psychology and Linguistics, Yale University

Lawrence Solan
Don Forchelli Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition, Brooklyn Law School

CLE Ethics Roundtable - Addressing Substance Abuse in the Legal Profession: We Are All Responsible

Wednesday, September 21

About the Program
Lawyer and writer Lisa F. Smith read from and discussed her recent book, Girl Walks out of a Bar, a gripping memoir that describes her addiction to drugs and alcohol, and the course of her recovery. Her story has quickly become an inspiration for professional people with substance problems.

About the Author
Lisa F. Smith is a writer and lawyer in New York City. Smith has been published in The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune,, and She is passionate about breaking the stigma of addiction and mental health issues

Prior to beginning her more than 15-year legal marketing career, Smith practiced law in the Corporate Finance group of a leading international firm.  She is a graduate of Northwestern University and Rutgers School of Law, where she served on the Editorial Board of the Rutgers Law Review. More on Smith’s writing can be found at

Jill Choder-Goldman, Psychoanalyst and Psychotherapist in New York City


Lawrence Solan, Don Forchelli Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition at Brooklyn Law School.

Past Programs

CLE Ethics Roundtable: Lies, Deceit and BS in Court

February 1, 2016
Judges are bombarded by dishonest statements by lawyers and witnesses alike. But not all dishonesty is created equal, either in the eyes of the law or in the way people speak. This presentation focused on differences among flat-out falsity (lies), true statements that are designed to persuade someone to believe in the truth of what the speaker knows to be false (deceit), and statements intended to aggrandize the speaker without regard to the truth or falsity of the statement (BS). In ethical rules, in the definition of perjury, in the examination of witnesses, and in the rhythm of litigation apart from formal rules, these strategies of dishonesty are sometimes treated alike, but more often are treated differently. The presenters endeavored to sort this out and solicited reactions concerning lawyers' experiences with and treatment of dishonest conduct in court.

Lawrence M. Solan, Don Forchelli Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition, Brooklyn Law School

Adam Kolber, Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School

Watch the roundtable here.

Getting a Confession Versus Getting at the Truth: An Ethical Alternative to Deceptive Police Interrogation Tactics (CLE)

October 1, 2015
Recent years have seen numerous exonerations of persons who were convicted based on confessions elicited by deceptive or manipulative police interrogations. Yet, courts in the United States continue to condone these tactics. Other countries have long banned deceptive interrogation tactics as unethical and unreliable, using instead a method of investigative interviewing known by the acronym PEACE. The Brooklyn Law School Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition brought together experts in the field to explore this issue from legal and psychological perspectives.

Saul Kassin, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Brent Snook, Professor of Psychology, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Inspector Todd Barron, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary
Glenn Garber, Founder and Director of The Exoneration Initiative, Adjunct Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School

Can the Legal System Do Justice When It Tries? (CLE)

April 6, 2015

Tom R. Tyler
Yale Law School
Macklin Fleming Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology

Lawrence M. Solan
Don Forchelli Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition, Brooklyn Law School

Watch the program here.

Racial Disparities in Legal Outcomes: On Policing, Charging Decisions, and Criminal Trial Proceedings (CLE)

March 23, 2015

Samuel R. Sommers
Tufts University
Associate Professor of Psychology, and Laboratory Director, Diversity & Intergroup Relations Lab

Lawrence M. Solan
Don Forchelli Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition, Brooklyn Law School

Watch the program here.

About the Programs
Violent encounters between the police and citizens have dominated the news during 2014 and 2015. Most of the stories have been about the police committing violent acts against citizens, but in some instances the roles are reversed. Serious concerns have been raised about the ability of the legal system to “do justice” when emotions are inflamed (perhaps when race is involved) and when public officials are the ones accused of wrongdoing.

The Brooklyn Law School Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition held a series of programs to address these questions from legal and psychological perspectives. Experts in the field looked at not only what the legal system does poorly but also what it does well. They examined biases the system tries to overcome, and considered ways the system can improve if there is the will to do so.

Brooklyn Law School - LLC Ethics Roundtable

Watch the Law, Language & Cognition Ethics Roundtable: Lies, Deceit and BS in Court

Have questions? We have answers.

Lawrence Solan, Don Forchelli Professor 
Director, Center for Law, Language and Cognition 
250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Telephone: (718) 780-0357
Fax: (718) 780-0393