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Fall 2022 Reading Group

When to Talk and When to Fight

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

By definition, equality and justice underscore our legal system. We face questions like: How do we apply the law to all cases equally? What makes enforcement practices fair? How do a given company’s practices impact its employees, the community, or the sustainability of the planet? Beyond the application of law, legal practice is laced–explicitly and implicitly–with questions of social change: Who is served by the status quo or a new legal precedent? What is the role of a lawyer in upholding, reforming, or challenging our current legal system? Under what circumstances would a lawyer choose to be a conscientious objector to participating in the legal system, or to choose to participate in civil disobedience?

In this course we will explore frameworks for lawyers to make sound strategic choices about questions like these. Specifically, we engage with the strategic question of when to talk and when to fight. You may find yourself exercising your BATNA, whether through protest, strike, talking with the media, or allying with citizen lobbies, even as you come to the table to discuss settlement or pursue back-channel negotiation. We will explore these boundaries, focusing on moments of choice about how to walk the line between joint, consensual problem resolution and unilateral, non-consensual power-building. Participants will read about and debate ways lawyers do, and can, influence change in complex organizations and in society.

Note: This reading group will meet for four, three-hour sessions on the following dates: September 19, October 3, October 24, and November 7.