News Archive

Spring Semester Brings New Courses for Berkeley Law Students

Susan Whitman
Susan Whitman

By Andrew Cohen

Berkeley Law’s expanding curriculum will grow even more next semester with seven new courses. Topics include forensic evidence, bureaucracy, social enterprise, electronic discovery, oral advocacy for LL.M. students, legal problem solving, and public policy.

Susan Whitman, assistant dean of academic planning and curriculum coordination, said the law school “responds to changing student interests and the demands of the legal profession by adding new courses that address real-world and pressing legal issues.”

Among the new courses, Bureaucratic Justice aims to give students sound strategies for lawyering within federal, state, and local agencies. The course will be co-taught by Assistant Professor Karen Tani and Edward Barnes, who spent 25 years as a staff attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center and now consults for Alameda County’s Mental Health Association.

Karen Tani
Karen Tani

“Much of the law that people encounter in their everyday lives is less about appearing before a court and more about dealing with bureaucracies and their regulations,” Tani said. “At a time when so much of our law is within the administrative state, it’s important to show law students what an attorney’s day-to-day practice looks like in that setting.”

Barnes will take the lead in offering pragmatic tips for how to interact with government agencies, while Tani will provide scholarly insights into the history and theory of institutional bureaucracy. They have lined up a diverse roster of guest speakers, all of whom shape the law within and throughout bureaucracies.

Tani noted that many Americans encounter law in the form of regulators and bureaucrats, who make vital decisions about housing assistance, food stamps, disability benefits, and other forms of government support. Agencies often constitute the first and final stop for legal claims ranging from employment discrimination to consumer fraud.

“If you represent clients who are navigating a bureaucracy, there are multiple routes you can pursue on their behalf,” Tani said. “Do you appeal an agency decision, speak to a supervisor, lobby the legislature for a rule change, file a class action, or even push for the judicial branch to change the law? This course will help students understand how to approach that terrain.”
New opportunities

Andrea Roth
Andrea Roth

An intriguing new course is Forensic Evidence, taught by Assistant Professor Andrea Roth. Among other topics, it explores the legal principles governing admissibility and use of forensic evidence at trial and sentencing, the actual science (or lack thereof) underlying various forensic disciplines, and juror competence in assessing it. Students will examine forensic disciplines such as arson, fingerprinting, DNA typing, facial recognition techniques, and neuroscience.

“Anyone who plans to practice criminal law in the 21st century needs to understand the growing role of science in adjudication, the difference between good and bad science, and the forensic issues that arise in specific disciplines,” Roth said. “How courts treat these issues, and the cultural and social contexts in which these disciplines have been developed, is increasingly important.”

Social Enterprise Law, the brainchild of Professor Eric Talley, will be taught by attorneys Jordan Breslow and Susan Mac Cormac. Students will learn about the legal, regulatory, and business aspects of social entrepreneur entities, the structures that regulate them, and the types of available financing models.

Lawyering as Problem Solving, to be taught by Academic Support Program Director Kristen Holmquist, confronts legal problems framed from the clients’ and attorneys’ points of view. Students will use case studies and simulations to learn reasoned strategies for analyzing, prioritizing, and solving legal problems in context.

E-Discovery, taught by Professors Anne Joseph O’Connell and Kevin Quinn, will tackle the evolving relationship between discovery and electronic information, including computer-assisted methods for review. Students will learn best practices for electronic discovery from local attorneys and other professionals.

Public Law and Policy Workshop, taught by Professors Amanda Tyler and John Yoo, presents public law papers by top scholars from Berkeley Law and other schools. Topics will focus largely on constitutional history and interpretation.

Oral Advocacy for LL.M. Students, taught by Director of Professional Skills David Oppenheimer, provides practice sessions in small groups with critiques by experienced lawyers and judges. Readings, lectures, demonstrations, and discussions will augment the learning process.

“Our faculty members have worked hard to make sure that these new courses will be taught at the most rigorous level,” Whitman said. “They want to ensure that our students leave Berkeley Law well prepared to enter practice in these emerging areas.”