What Is It? What Does It Do?
Critical Analysis for Law Students is a virtual reading group for students, designed to give them conceptual tools to critically assess, rather than merely to consume, the mass of legal doctrine they encounter the day they enter law school.
The reading group is virtual in the sense that it is available online, with almost all materials accessible to anyone affiliated with an institution that provides access to common journal databases such as JSTOR and HeinOnline. [Detailed table of contents here.]
The reading group easily can become
less virtual, and more actual, by--for instance--holding more or
less regular "read-ins," where students can drop in to discuss
texts from the read-in list in an informal setting. Virtual, and
spontaneous, read-ins of course are possible at any time, with
even less ado. [2012-13 schedule at UofT here; an Ultra Vires article
on the first term here
(by Sarah Rankin).]
The materials are arranged to allow incoming students to get their feet wet with introductory readings on legal education and basic legal concepts and institutions, starting with Karl Llewellyn's classic (but still fresh) lectures to beginning Columbia law students, first given in 1930. They then proceed, roughly chronologically, from the always entertaining Legal Realists through Legal Process and Critical Legal Studies to Critical Race Theory and musings about the nature of interdisciplinarity in law. Running through the materials, as a minor theme, are readings on criminal law; these are meant to provide a common, substantive, focus, showing the various conceptual tools at work.
Within each topic, a couple of
basic readings are followed by others, for anyone with more
interest, or time, to pursue a topic, or subtopic, in greater
Caveat: Critical Analysis for Law Students does not deal directly with the Great Topics in Legal Philosophy, or Jurisprudence, such as "What is Law, really?" or the Eternal Struggle between Positivism and Natural Law. It instead introduces students to different perspectives, putting in their hands conceptual tools to adopt, adapt, or reject, and to try out by posing their own, and perhaps even new!, questions of our ever elusive subject matter, "law."