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Maurer School of Law collaborates with IU departments


By Rachel Leffers



The Maurer School of Law has been collaborating with undergraduate departments to have law professors teach undergraduates, instead of only teaching courses within the law school.

This fall, professor Joseph Hoffmann will teach H237: Law and Society: Hot Topics, a course he developed with the intention to provide undergraduates a realistic law school experience.

“We — in the law school — know that law is a topic that a lot of people are interested in,” he said. “It’s in the news every day. Whether it’s criminal law, constitutional law, environmental law or international law, this is stuff people are intrinsically 
interested in.”

Hoffmann said most undergraduate law courses are designed to prepare students for law school or teach them law from the perspective of another discipline, but students are rarely taught law using the Socratic method.

H237: Law and Society: Hot Topics will allow students to work through cases pertaining to current societal topics. Some of the topics the course will focus on are police brutality, immigration, electronic privacy, religious liberty and affirmative action, he said.

Hoffmann said it’s beneficial for the law school to reach out to IU undergraduate students because many law school professors don’t think pre-law programs are the best form of preparation for law school.

“Do whatever you’re interested in and do it well, then come to law school,” Hoffmann said.

One example of a course that teaches students law from the perspective of another discipline is I203: Global Development.

Professor Christiana Ochoa, who is in her final week of teaching the course, said although the course is not a law course, it’s important to look at global development from a legal perspective.

Ochoa said policy, economics and law are typically thought of as the three key disciplinary topics in global development studies, but that of the three, law is not focused on as much.

“The role that law plays in society is often kind of an 
invisible role,” she said. “Unless you go to law school, it works more as the infrastructure. You know it’s there. It’s stabilizing things. It’s supporting them, but you don’t necessarily see it.”

Professor Norman Hedges is instructing I399: Current Topics in Informatics Intellectual Property, a course created because of the need for informatics students to understand intellectual property laws, such as trademarks, copyrights, patents and trade secrets.

Hedges said it’s important for informatics students to understand potential issues pertaining to these laws so they can protect their own software and not violate someone else’s intellectual property.

Because patentability is a process that takes years to learn, Hedges said it’s beneficial for students to develop these skills before entering the computing field unaware of potential obstacles.

“Wherever these guys end up working, the issues are going to be there, and they need to be cognizant of it so they’re not waiving rights unwittingly or stepping on somebody else’s toes.”

Professor Timothy Waters will instruct a course on transitional justice and international criminal law in which students will learn about the global efforts to judicialize conflict through trials, truth commissions, education projects, monuments or pacts of forgetting.

He said this course will analyze the various methods countries use to manage criminal offenses and how they incorporate human rights into these practices.

For example, he said after Spain’s dictatorship was overthrown, the country opted for a pact of forgetting. Because of this pact, not much was done to reprimand criminal behavior. Instead, the government acted as if nothing had happened.

Waters said he thinks providing undergraduate students with the opportunity to study law is beneficial because, unlike the United States, many countries teach law at the undergraduate level.

“There’s nothing biologically different about undergraduates,” he said. “They’re perfectly capable of studying law, so why not do that here as well?”

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