Law, Justice and Society

  • Department Interdisciplinary
  • Academic Division The College
  • Offerings Minor

A student shakes Ruth Bader Ginsburg's hand A student shakes Ruth Bader Ginsburg's hand

The Law, Justice and Society program brings together the Law School, Williams School and College in a curricular concept unlike what any other liberal arts college can offer. The program focuses on the philosophical, historical and cultural elements of law, and on the legal dimensions of civic, commercial and professional life.

Law, Justice and Society

The Law, Justice and Society Program at W&L engages students in an interdisciplinary exploration of the nature of law and justice. It challenges students to think freely, critically and humanely about the role of law at a variety of levels: locally, regionally, nationally and globally. It seeks to equip students to critically examine law and justice across cultural, chronological, topical and institutional settings.

The program faculty includes the core faculty listed below, plus numerous affiliate faculty from around the undergraduate and law campuses, many of whom have both law degrees and higher degrees in another field. They teach a wide variety of interdisciplinary courses that focus either on substantive areas of the law or on law and its role in various facets of society.

The curriculum includes dozens of courses in the College and the Williams School, including from such varied disciplines as art history, chemistry, classics, economics, journalism and politics. In order to earn the LJS minor, a student must take LJS 101 (Introduction to Law, Justice, and Society), plus at least five electives from a wide array of law-related courses offered by numerous departments and the law school, and finally participate in a capstone course. 

In addition to undergraduate courses that examine the law from a liberal arts perspective, LJS minors enroll in one or more courses taught at the law school. LJS minors participate in the course side by side with the law students. A few examples include:

  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Cyber Policy and Privacy Law
  • Death Penalty
  • Election Law and Voting Rights
  • Mass Media Law
  • Poverty Law

The LJS program is designed for any student who is interested in an interdisciplinary examination of the law and its role in society. Earning an LJS minor is not a requirement for applying to law school, nor is the program limited to those students planning a career in the law. It may be of particular interest to pre-law students, but the program is open to all W&L students interested in approaching the study of law from a liberal arts perspective. W&L’s LJS program is unique among similar programs offered at other highly ranked liberal arts colleges in that W&L’s law school offers LJS minors the opportunity to choose from among dozens of interesting seminars and courses taught by law professors and to learn side by side in classes with second- and third-year law students.

Opportunities 

The LJS program is young but already offers a host of varied opportunities for undergraduate students. During the academic year, students can participate in inter-collegiate mock trial competitions, attend events with invited speakers, and serve as jurors and witnesses for mock trials at the law school. They can also work in the community, for instance by providing volunteer income tax assistance to members of the public and by securing summer internships at law firms and government agencies. LJS students are encouraged to organize events pertaining to their own interests. Even before the creation of the LJS minor, W&L undergraduates organized events on such topics as students’ civil rights, natural gas pipeline licensing, social justice and legal careers in public service.

Spring Term offers particularly diverse opportunities to explore the intersection of law and the liberal arts in the classroom. Spring Term courses delve into such varied issues as civil rights, negotiation theory and scientific crime scene analysis. One Spring Term course in particular, the Washington Term Program, offers students the opportunity to live and study in Washington, D.C., for six weeks, while also working four days a week in a government office, think tank or other political organization.

During summer breaks, students can intern with law firms and government agencies or participate in summer research opportunities with professors. The pre-law advising staff in the Career and Professional Development office work closely with students and alumni seeking admission to law school or law-related opportunities to explore their interest in the law.

Outcomes

The LJS minor prepares students for graduate school and for a wide variety of careers in law-related fields. Although earning an LJS minor is not a requirement for applying to law school, it may be of interest to pre-law students. Law is a perennially popular advanced degree among W&L alumni. A recent study showed that, of the members of W&L’s class of 2008 who earned an advanced degree within 10 years of graduation, 18 percent attained a JD, more than any other single discipline.

In addition, numerous W&L students go on to work in government agencies, as journalists, and in other fields related to the law. More generally, the LJS minor teaches students to think critically about the role of the law in promoting justice, a skill they can apply nearly universally.

Timothy Lubin

Program Head

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Sample Courses

At W&L, we believe education and experience go hand-in-hand. You’ll be encouraged to dive in, explore and discover connections that will broaden your perspective.

LJS 101

Intro to Law, Justice, and Society

An introductory seminar providing a broad, historically grounded foundation in concepts and frameworks of law, along with basic familiarity with a range of forms of law in practice. Beginning with general questions regarding the nature of law, students then move to a survey of American law, focusing on direct student engagement with landmark cases. The seminar concludes with attention to law in international and comparative settings.

ARTH 246

Questions of Ownership

Cultural heritage objects are powerful artifacts to own, display and even destroy. But why? This courses explores the ways art and cultural heritage objects have been stolen, laundered, purchased, curated and destroyed in order to express political, religious and cultural messages. Case studies and current events are equally studied to shed light on practices of looting and iconoclasm. Some of the questions we consider: What is the relationship between art and war? Under what conditions should museums repatriate art from its collections? What nationalist agendas are at work when cultural heritage objects are claimed by modern nation states or terrorist groups?

ACCT 256

Federal Tax Policy & Planning

This course promotes thoughtful discussion and research of current topics in U.S. tax policy and planning. After an intensive introduction to basic federal tax concepts, each student writes a paper on a current federal tax topic.

ACCT 304

Anatomy of a Fraud

This course examines the phenomena of financial statement fraud and discusses some of the key forensic accounting concepts and skills used to address this problem. Drawing on historical cases of financial statement fraud as well as the firsthand experience of the instructor, we search for the answers to questions such as: What causes executives to “cook the books”? What factors contribute to fraud? What can be done to prevent and detect it? How have regulations changed the landscape of corporate misconduct? What role do auditors, lawyers, employees, the media and other stakeholders play?

JOUR 303

Covering Great Trials in History

Often in dramatic fashion, trials expose society’s weaknesses by dissecting the violent tendencies and obsessions of the people we thought were worthy of our respect or our fear. But does this obsession with the law serve the greater good? Are prosecutors playing on the public’s fears? Are judges doing enough to ensure fair trials? Are defense attorneys serving their clients or themselves? Does the press, in sensational, simplistic coverage, do more harm than good? And is the public becoming disillusioned with the American legal system? This course examines these issues by placing great trials in their context in history and exploring the complexities of the conflict between the freedom of the press and the ideal of a fair trial.

POL 233

Environmental Policy & Law

A study of major environmental laws and the history of their enactment and implementation. Discusses different theoretical approaches from law, ethics, politics and economics. Reviews significant case law and the legal context. Emphasis is on domestic policy with some attention to international law and treaties.

Meet the Faculty

At W&L, students enjoy small classes and close relationships with professors who educate and nurture.

Timothy Lubin
Timothy

Timothy Lubin

Jessie Ball DuPont Professor of Religion

Professor Lubin teaches courses on Asian religions and comparative study of religion and law. He researches Hindu religious history, law in ancient Asia, and texts and inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Old Javanese and Old Tamil.

Adedayo (Dayo) Abah
Adedayo (Dayo)

Adedayo (Dayo) Abah

Department Head and Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications

Abah teaches courses on communications law, news media, crisis communication, and international communication. Her research areas include online anonymous speech, international defamation law, copyright issues, Nollywood in African cinema, women and Nollywood, religion and the media, and immigrant media use.

Curriculum Vitae

Melina Bell
Melina

Melina Bell

Professor of Philosophy and Law

Bell is a part of the faculty in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability, and the Law, Justice, and Society Program. She also teaches at the Law School. Professor Bell’s primary research interests are in political philosophy, philosophy of law, and feminist philosophy.

Curriculum Vitae

C. Elizabeth Belmont
C. Elizabeth

C. Elizabeth Belmont

Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Community Legal Practice Clinic

Professor Belmont’s areas of expertise include family law, elder law and litigation. She earned her undergraduate degree from Southern Illinois University and her JD from Loyola Univeristy of Chicago Law School.

Matthew Boaz
Matthew

Matthew Boaz

Acting Director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic and Professor of Practice

Professor Boaz is the Acting Director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the Washington & Lee University School of Law and is a Professor of Practice. His scholarship is concerned with the intersection of criminal law and immigration law, abolition, and universal representation in immigration proceedings. He teaches a seminar on "crimmigration" law, as well as an experiential capstone course for the Law, Justice, and Society undergraduate minor.

Nathan Bowden
Nathan

Nathan Bowden

Visiting Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Professor Bowden is an attorney, educator, and consultant whose primary research interests involve how we regulate financial institutions and other businesses that offer products and services to consumers. His teaches courses about conflict of laws, secured transactions, and financial regulation in the U.S.

Kevin Crotty
Kevin

Kevin Crotty

Professor of Classics, The J. Donald Childress Professor in Foreign Languages

Crotty’s courses include Classical Mythology; Homer; and Law, Litigation and Justice in the Ancient World. His research interests include myth, archaic Greek poetry, Plato and legal theory.

Nathan Dean
Nathan

Nathan Dean

Assistant Professor of Law, Justice and Society

Dr. Dean teaches and writes on civil rights, social inequality, and discrimination combining perspectives from public law and political theory.\r\n\r\nPh.D. in Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill\r\nJ.D., University of Virginia School of Law\r\nB.A. in Political Science, Haverford College

Mark A. Drumbl
Mark A.

Mark A. Drumbl

Class of 1975 Alumni Professor of Law; Director, Transnational Law Institute

Professor Drumbl’s areas of expertise include international law, transnational law, mass violence and human rights, and global environmental govenance. He received a BA and MA from McGill University, a JD from University of Toronto, and a LLM and SJD from Columbia University.

Peter Grajzl
Peter

Peter Grajzl

Professor of Economics

Grajzl teaches courses in introductory economics, microeconomics, economics of institutions and mathematical methods. His research centers on comparative institutional economics, law and economics, and political economy.

Website

Toni Locy
Toni

Toni Locy

Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications

Locy teaches courses on covering the courts and law, news writing, in-depth reporting, multimedia storytelling design and sports journalism. She was previously a journalist for 25 years, covering primarily the federal court system.

Curriculum Vitae

Russell A. Miller
Russell A.

Russell A. Miller

J.B. Stombock Professor of Law

Professor Miller's areas of expertise include public law (constitutional law, administrative law and international law), comparative law theory and method, German law and legal culture. He receive his undergraduate degree from Washington State University, an MA and JD from Duke, and a LLM and JW from Goethe University in Germany.

Mark Rush
Mark

Mark Rush

Director of International Education and Professor of Politics

Rush writes on U.S. politics, constitutional law, elections and democracy around the world, global affairs, and higher education. His current scholarly work includes presidential power, international politics, judicial activism, elections and democratic reform, civic education, higher education, and law and technology.

Curriculum Vitae

Melissa Vise
Melissa

Melissa Vise

Assistant Professor of History

Professor Vise teaches courses on Medieval European history, violence, crime and punishment, law, and religion and culture. Her research interests are Medieval European intellectual, cultural, and religious history with special attention to the Italian peninsula.

Adedayo (Dayo) Abah
Melina Bell
C. Elizabeth Belmont
Matthew Boaz
Nathan Bowden
Kevin Crotty
Nathan Dean
Mark A. Drumbl
Peter Grajzl
Toni Locy
Russell A. Miller
Mark Rush
Melissa Vise
Timothy Lubin