Legal Theory

The Big Picture 

Many of the world’s foremost legal theorists make their intellectual home in Washington Square as members of our faculty. NYU School of Law pioneered the colloquium model—designed to engage scholars and students in the highest level of discussion in legal theory—with colloquia in Legal History and Legal, Political, and Social Philosophy. Our colloquia now range widely over different areas of legal theory, such as constitutional theory and the economic analysis of law, and in all these areas our professors are producing trailblazing scholarship. We took this leadership role a step further, with the creation of the first graduate degree in legal theory.

At NYU we construe "legal theory" broadly to include scholarly reflection on domestic and international law and legal institutions that draws on philosophy, economic theory, psychology, anthropology, political theory, critical race theory, feminist theory, history and sociology. NYU has long been a leader in interdisciplinary legal theory, with special strengths in philosophical, economic and sociological approaches, as well as legal history. The program is for a select group of highly motivated students who wish to take full advantage of our unrivaled faculty resources in the area in order to establish a firm foundation for future scholarly or professional pursuits. This full-time program is especially suitable for those planning a career in legal academia and is open to students with a law degree from countries around the world.

Legal Theory Thesis Seminar 

All students are required to write a substantial thesis in conjunction with the year-long Legal Theory Thesis Seminar, designed specifically for students in the program. The seminar integrates instruction on a variety of methodological approaches with assistance in choosing and refining the research project. It also offers students an opportunity to receive critical feedback on thesis drafts from both the instructor and other students in a workshop format. Guest lectures will supplement instruction during the early weeks of the Fall semester to ensure breadth of theoretical and methodological instruction. The Spring semester will be devoted primarily to the workshopping of draft theses.

An Interdisciplinary Education: Centers and Institutes

An interdisciplinary study of law involves integrating methodologies and perspectives from several disciplines to gain a multidimensional understanding of legal problems. The Law School is home to 29 interdisciplinary centers and institutes in which faculty and students collaborate on timely, often policy-pushing projects. As example, in just 15 years the Brennan Center for Justice has become one of the nation’s preeminent legal institutions, promoting a nonpartisan agenda of research, public advocacy and legal action in its four issue areas: democracy, poverty, criminal justice and liberty and national security.

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