Legal Theory & Ethics

Below is an overview of the courses that have been taught at Berkeley Law in this area. Not every course will be offered in the future and course descriptions, content, and requirements are subject to change. Please browse the Schedule of Classes for more specific information about current and next semester classes, including detailed descriptions and schedules.


Advanced Topics in Jurisprudence

Plato's Phaedrus is the topic of this course.

Basic Legal Values

Biomedical Legal and Ethical Issues

Critical Race Theory

This seminar allows students to explore at an advanced level some of the central debates in critical race theory on such issues as the intractability of racism; the failure of civil rights laws; and the relationship between race, gender and law.

Critical View of the Legal Profession

Feminist Jurisprudence

This course examines feminist jurisprudence through a particular lens—conflicts among feminists, and other legal actors, about the extent to which women should be described as victims, autonomous agents or some more complex combination. Course materials will include feminist legal theory, feminist scholarship from other disciplines and the occasional, illustrative examples from fiction and film.

Feminist Legal Theory

Foundation Seminar in Law and Society

Foundations of Legal Philosophy

Foundations of Moral Philosophy

This course studies the role of moral philosophy in the legal system.

Foundations of Political Philosophy

This seminar is intended to acquaint students with some of the main currents in contemporary Anglo-American political philosophy. Topics to be considered will include: theories of justice, the foundations of liberal toleration, utility and rights, the nature of equality. Special attention will be paid to the work of Rawls, with additional readings from Nozick, Sandel, Dworkin, and others. The course has no prerequisites (though previous coursework in philosophy or political theory would be helpful), and is open to JSP students, JD students, and graduate students in Philosophy, Political Science, and other departments. Course requirements include a seminar paper and regular class participation. The course may not be used to satisfy the Boalt Writing Requirement.

Health Law

This course studies legal issues relating to medical practice, health insurance, and the rights and responsibilities of healthcare providers and patients. Topics include doctor and hospital licensing, informed consent, medical malpractice, regulations governing health insurance and finance, public subsidies for healthcare, laws relating to death and dying, and selected issues of biomedical ethics.


This course views the law in philosophical perspective. Topics include the relation between law and morality; legal reasoning; the justification of sanctions and rights; authority; the ethics and political theory of adjudication and legislation; and positive law and nihilism.

Law and Literature

Lawyers are involved in a long-term discussion of such issues as causation, moral responsibility and natural law. Sometimes the debate is carried on in jurisprudential, philosophical terms, but it has also been the subject of great narrative works of art. This course examines these artistic precedents.

Law and Modern Social Thought

This course examines several influential attempts to construct social theories of law and to use legal materials for systematic social theorizing from the mid-18th century to the early 20th century. The seminar considers especially how major theorists characterized the distinctive elements of the legal order of "modern" Western societies and explained their social foundations.

Law, Self and Society

Legal Profession

This course considers a range of legal and ethical rules-including doctrines of zeal and competence, loyalty and confidentiality-across a variety of lawyer roles and practice settings, including counseling; transactional work; civil, criminal and public interest advocacy; and negotiation and mediation.

Legal Theory Seminar

Life and Death: Moral Reasoning and the Law

This seminar explores several issues involving life and death, including abortion, the theory of the right to kill in self-defense, and active and passive euthanasia. The focus is on moral reasoning and its potential for helping us reach solutions to controversial legal and policy issues.

Professional Responsibility for Environmental Litigation

Workshop in Law, Philosophy, and Political Theory

The Workshop in Law, Philosophy, and Political Theory provides an opportunity for students to engage with the work of leading scholars in moral, legal, and political theory. It should be of particular interest to students contemplating an academic career. Each week a distinguished visitor will offer for the seminar's evaluation a manuscript of work in progress. This year's tentative list of speakers, in order of appearance, includes: David Strauss, Richard Rorty, Martha Minow, John Searle, Judith Thomson, Judith Butler, G.A. Cohen, Brian Barry, Kathryn Abrams, Hanna Pitkin, Joshua Cohen, and Bernard Williams. On Tuesdays, from 2:20 to 4:10, students enrolled in the seminar will meet with Professors Scheffler and Post to discuss the week's manuscript. Students will be asked to write short papers for these sessions assessing the weekly manuscripts. On Thursdays, from 1:00 to 4:00, each visitor will present his or her work to the class. Thursday meetings will be open to the general public and, for out-of-town visitors, will be followed by dinner at a local restaurant. Each student enrolled in the course will have the opportunity to attend one or more of these dinners. The first meeting of the class will be in the Dean's Seminar Room on Tuesday, January 21 at 2:20. If more than twenty sturdents wish to enroll, all students will be asked to complete a short application form. This course may be taken as a first-year elective.