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Bharath Palle
S.J.D. 2022

bpalle at

Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP


“Wesley Hohfeld and the struggle for a modern legal science”

My doctoral dissertation provides a historical reconstruction of the thematic concerns and philosophical ideas of one of the most important legal theorists of the 20th century, Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld. Hohfeld, the late Yale law professor who was active at the time of the First World War, provided path-breaking philosophical analyses of foundational legal categories, such as rights, liberties, private property, etc. Although his analyses had a profound impact on the development of Anglo-American jurisprudence, the intellectual origins of Hohfeld’s ideas remain poorly understood. My project is the first full-length intellectual history of Hohfeld’s thought. I reconstruct his conceptual system, situating it in the relevant social and discursive context. Tracing the genealogy of the modern understanding of legal categories such as rights, liberties and powers, to a set of contentious progressive-era debates in the Atlantic world, I demonstrate how Hohfeld’s analyses of the activities of trans-national corporations and labor unions laid the theoretical foundations for the intellectual currents that defined the development of American law in the 20th century.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • History of the Common Law with Professor Charles Donahue Jr., Harvard Law School, Principal Faculty Supervisor
  • Philosophy and Legal Theory with Professor Duncan Kennedy, Harvard Law School
  • Ancient and Modern Political Philosophy with Professor Richard Tuck, Department of Government, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University
  • Property Law with Professor Henry E. Smith, Harvard Law School

Additional Research Interests

  • Legal History: 20th Century American Legal History
  • Legal Philosophy
  • History of Economic Regulation
  • Moral and Political Philosophy
  • Critical Legal Theory


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. Candidate 2016-2022
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M. Program, 2015-2016 (requirements fulfilled, degree waived)
  • Symbiosis Law School, B.A., LL.B., 2006 – 2011

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, 2019, Early Career Scholar Fellowship
  • Harvard Law School, Summer 2020, Academic Fellowship
  • Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Spring 2020, Teaching Fellowship
  • Harvard Law School, 2017 – 2018; 2019 – 2020, Graduate Program Fellow, TA for Short Writing Projects
  • Project on Foundations of Private Law, 2017 – 2018, Graduate Fellowship
  • Harvard Law School, Fall 2015 – Spring 2016, Research Assistant for Professor Andrew Gold
  • Harvard Law School, Fall 2015, Research Assistant for Professor Christian List

Additional Information

  • Languages: English (fluent); Hindi (reading and writing); Sanskrit (reading and writing); Tamil (speaking and reading); Telugu (speaking)

Last Updated: July 7th, 2023