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Courses|College of Law

American Legal History

Course Number: 6530
Professor: Sam Kalen
Credit Hours & Type of Credit: 3
Semester Offered: TBA
Required: No
Prerequisites: Students must have completed their first year of law school.
Recommended Courses: None

Course Overview: This course provides students with the ability to explore how particular areas of American law evolve and change, and the forces and dynamics prompting that change, whether in connection with the development of constitutional doctrines or particular areas of private law. Law, after all, is dynamic (rather than static) and legal history offers students the ability to examine that dynamism in their areas of interest. Such an appreciation for how and why the law evolved the way it did is a skill critical for advocates, who often must be able to explain to the judiciary why a particular doctrine either should or should not apply, or be extended or limited.  While the course will be tailored to the interests of the students, the course goals are to (1) introduce students to American legal history, including the development of both public (constitutional) and private law (e.g., property, torts, contract); (2) assist students in honing their legal researching and writing skills; and (3) provide an appreciation for how law is a social tool for societal change, and why studying law in context over time can make one a better advocate for clients in the courtroom (it is another tool in written advocacy). Along the way, we will examine the political, economic, and social context for major constitutional and private law decisions, and possibly how courts and advocates have used or abused "legal history."​

Course Materials: No textbook
Course Format: Seminar
Written Assignments: The development of either a final paper or amicus appellate brief.
Type of Exam: Final Paper/Amicus Appellate Brief
Basis for Grading Student Performance: Class participation and final paper/amicus appellate brief.
Other Comments:

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