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Harvard Legal Theory Forum Organizational Logistics Memo

September 20th, 2008 · No Comments

Thanks to everybody who was able to come to the meeting on Thursday. We discussed the structural features of the group, and I think that we’re ready to start existing!


The online poll that you should fill out if you wish to join any of the activities, take on an administrative roll, or express a preference about meeting time or faculty adviser is located here:




At the meeting, we decided that we would engage in the following activities:


HLTF Legal Theory Reading Group: We will meet every other week this fall to discuss (1) a canonical essay on legal theory and (2) a contemporary essay on a similar issue. For each meeting, a member will volunteer to moderate the discussion. 


The basis for the canonical essays will be Terry Fisher and David Kennedy’s book, The Canon of American Legal Thought, but if some members feel that there are important legal theory texts missing from this collection, we might supplement it. The articles that make up the book are listed here along with links that any Harvard student should be able to use to access the articles. (The one article not on this list is: Catherine A. MacKinnon, “Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State: Toward a Feminist Jurisprudence,” 8 Signs: Journal of Women, Culture and Society 635 (1983).) 


If you wish to be part of the reading group and think that something is being left out, please e-mail me soon and let me know—notable thinkers whose work has significantly impacted American legal philosophy whose writings do not appear in this book include Hans Kelsen, H.L.A. Hart, Joseph Raz, and John Finnis.


For each meeting the moderator (with input from the group) will select a contemporary essay (probably something written within the past decade) and may edit it for length. We hope to avoid having excessive reading. 


This is not a class, but we hope to have a consistent group for these meetings, since there will be some thematic and chronological continuity from meeting to meeting, so anyone who wishes to join this group should attempt to attend every, or almost every, meeting.


HLTF Colloquia: From time to time (but not any more frequently than every other week), students or professors may present works in progress. These presentations do not need to be connected with the topics being discussed in the reading group. We will contact professors to see if they might be interested in workshopping any of their works in progress. We can also contact PhD, SJD, LLM, and JD students to offer a venue in which they may be able to present substantial papers on which they are working. If you are interested in participating in these discussions, please fill you this form


These colloquia will be open to anyone who is interested in attending, and papers should be circulated at least a week in advance. Members of the reading group need not attend the colloquia if they do not wish to do so, but we will attempt to schedule the colloquia so that everyone who is part of the reading group will be able to participate them and will not be overwhelmed by reading.


After discussions with quite a few people who were not at the meeting and who expressed a strong interest in doing some theory that is related to law but not specifically legal (and in making less of a commitment to attend meetings), I think it would be worthwhile to undertake the following activity as well:


HLTF Social Theory Discussion Group: From time to time (but not any more frequently than every other week), students will meet to discuss social, political, or literary theory (that is, not specifically legal theory) that has a connection to law. If you are interested in participating in these discussions, please fill out this form.


Any student who wishes to lead such a discussion may propose to do so and then assemble readings (in the range of 20-40 pages) and make them available at least 1 week before the discussion. If there are a large number of requests for such discussions, we can have a poll to select topics. 


These discussions can be open to anyone who is interested, as there will be less of a trajectory than will be present in the reading group. Members of the reading group need not attend the occasional discussions if they do not wish to do so. 


Future Activities: In the future, we may publish a series of Occasional or Working Papers, but we can decide this later.




I will pick a time for reading group meetings that accommodates as many people as possible..


I will retain information about preferences for times for social theory discussion group and colloquia meetings, and will use this information throughout the semester in scheduling these events..


The lunch hour and the evening after 7 are both possibilities, but it may be difficult to have discussions for more than an hour if we opt for lunchtime meetings. Either way, I think there is a reasonably good chance that we could provide or subsidize food for the reading group meetings.


Meeting Location


Meetings will, for the time being, be held at the law school. We will try our best to find meeting rooms that are suitable for discussions (rather than rooms with theater-type seating). If we have difficulty obtaining such rooms, students in GSAS may be able to help us find rooms in CGIS or other buildings. 




Jonathan was selected as Chair for the organization at the meeting.


Additional positions that are available if anyone wishes to fill them are:


Treasurer: The treasurer is responsible for the HLTF budget and communicates with the Dean of Students about the budget. This is the one position that we need to have in addition to a Chair to fulfill DOS requirements for a student organization.


Colloquia Director: This person would be responsible for approaching faculty and asking them to present works in progress to the forum and publicizing the existence of the Forum to graduate and law students so that they know it is a venue in which they might workshop their writing on legal theory.


Social Theory Discussions Director: This person would be responsible for coordinating and scheduling the Social Theory Discussions. This person will solicit ideas for topics and readings to discuss and will find volunteers to prepare readings for discussion group meetings and moderate discussions.


Communications Director: This person would be in charge of a website and managing an email list and for arranging logistics for distributing readings to the group in advance of meetings.


If there are any other administrative roles that anyone would like to volunteer to take up, that would also be fine. Please email Jonathan if you have an idea for another administrative position that you would like to fill.




If enough people want to buy a copy of the Kennedy and Fisher book, I can contact the Coop to see if they can order some. Alternatively, we may be able to get funding to have articles that appear in the book reproduced by the distribution center, although some people may prefer a book to a lot of photocopies. The Kennedy and Fisher book does have introductory essays to the canonical pieces that look useful. If you want to join the Reading Group, please let me know your preference.


Faculty Adviser


We need at least one faculty adviser to be created as a student organization at the law school. I’ve compiled a list of possibilities (included in the survey).


I’ll approach whoever proves most popular in this poll and work my way down until someone agrees to do it. If we want to add additional faculty advisers, we may do so in the future.


Administrative Miscellany


Membership List: I will be using the list from the first meeting combined with the list from the activities fair and people who have told me they are interested orally or by e-mail. If you do not want to be on the list, please let me know.


Constitution: I will prepare a constitution as soon as I am able to get a model from the DOS (hopefully by the end of this week).


Website: I will try to set up a site on Sidebar where announcements (and possibly readings or at least links to readings) can be posted.


Email List: I will be sending emails from for the time being. In the future, the Communications Director (if we get one) and I may set up a listserv through the law school.


All the Best,


Jonathan Gingerich


Tags: Administration