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900 - 914 Seminars

Each semester the faculty offers a variety of seminars on different topics of interest.

Seminars include: 

  • 900 - Law & Technology
  • 901 - Not-for-Profit Corporations
  • 902 - Labor Law
  • 903 - International Intellectual Property
  • 904 - Criminal Post-Conviction
  • 905 - North Korea
  • 906 - Reinventing Delivery of Legal Services
  • 907 - Innovations in Low Wage Worker Organization
  • 908 - Financial Crisis
  • 909 - Children & Immigration
  • 910 - Judicial Policymaking
  • 911 - Plea Bargaining
  • 912 - Federalism

Descriptions of recent seminar topics include:

Advanced Topics in Criminal Law: Post-Conviction Remedies

This seminar will explore the nature of the limited judicial relief that is available to state and federal prisoners after their criminal convictions become final. We will focus on federal habeas corpus law and the Illinois Post-conviction Hearing Act. Topics for discussion will include claims of actual innocence, the competing values of finality and fairness, statutes of limitations and other statutory barriers to relief, and the federalism implications of federal habeas review.

International Intellectual Property

The seminar will present the global perspective of copyrights, patents, trademarks and other intellectual property rights. Students enrolled in this seminar will examine domestic and foreign intellectual property law, multilateral treaties, and other international agreements that affect the protection and enforcement of intellectual property worldwide and develop a research paper focused on a topic in international intellectual property. The seminar may incorporate guest speakers involved in the practice of international intellectual property.

Legal Technology and Innovation in Practice

This seminar course will expose students to the variety of uses of technology in legal practice as articulated in the most recent study of attorneys via the ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. During our seminar meetings, students will learn how legal technology is quickly transforming the practice of law and is rapidly becoming a game-changing factor when setting up, maintaining, or managing a legal practice. Topics to be discussed will include: legal informatics, project management, e-discovery, social media, cloud computing, data security, courtroom and litigation software, virtual practice and mobile lawyers, online research, document collaboration, presentation and courtroom technologies, encryption apps and metadata, ethical considerations for technology in legal practice, billing, and document automation to increase the efficiency and profitability of law firms. The seminar course will consist of brief introductory lectures or interactive demonstrations, short preparatory assigned readings, participation in small discussion groups, workshop simulations for experiential learning, and will culminate in a final course paper (30-35 pages). The final course paper will be on a legal technology or legal practice topic of your choosing in consultation with your professor (plus a 15-20 minute class presentation on the same topic at the end of the term with the use of an innovative technology or practice tool that you learned in class). There are numerous examples of technologically driven legal practice innovations. Please note: there is not a prerequisite for this class beyond interest in the topic, but it is designed as a seminar for upper-level law students.

Culture and Disputing

This seminar—useful to those studying Alternative Dispute Resolution, clinical mediation, international law or comparative law, among other courses—will attempt to explore dispute resolution from a sociological and anthropological—as well as legal—point of view in a variety of different societies, both “primitive” and modern (European, Native-American, Asian and African), and in certain inter-generational, inter-gender or inter-racial contexts.

Dispute resolution practices in any given society relate to or derive from the culture of that society. The study of dispute resolution within or between other cultures provides insight into the true nature of our own system of disputing, and into the limits of our present means of conflict resolution in terms of what it can realistically accomplish for disputants.

Thus, this seminar is intended to provide a broader understanding of:
  • the nature of “culture” and its impact on conflict resolution;
  • the insights to be gained from examining dispute resolution in other societies;
  • the possibility of reform of the American adversarial legal process to better serve disputants; and
  • the limits to the “real justice” attorneys can accomplish given our present American adversarial system (thus, perhaps, ameliorating the personal frustrations that will ultimately arise in professional life).

Aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis: Is Another Crisis Coming?

Where were the gatekeepers (e.g., corporate directors, accountants, attorneys)? Over six years have passed since the bursting of the housing bubble and the resulting financial crisis in 2008. Yet many commentators believe that the conditions giving rise to these events have not fundamentally changed and that another crisis is likely. This seminar will examine the 2008 crisis and attempt to identify contributing causes and preventive measures. We will address a variety of questions, including: What are the historical antecedents to the events that brought the U.S. and world financial system to near meltdown? What economic and other theories supported deregulation? What factors other than deregulation helped cause the crisis (securities regulators, and rating agencies) as the various crises developed? Why haven’t any top executives of the financial firms been prosecuted? What costs of deregulation were externalized and imposed on pension funds, municipalities, taxpayers and other persons and entities as a result of the crisis? What reform measures have been implemented by Congress, the Federal Reserve Board and other federal agencies and do they address the core causes of the financial crisis? Are the reform measures proving to be effective? What additional steps, if any, should be taken at the national and international level to attempt to avert or limit the impact of future financial crises?

Potential research topics may cover a wide range of subjects and interests, including

  • banking, insurance, real estate and securities regulation,
  • white collar crime,
  • corporate governance and accountability,
  • the role of international financial institutions and events, and
  • the impact of financial and regulatory reforms by Congress and various federal agencies.

Children and Immigration

This seminar will explore issues relating to immigrant children. We will discuss the reasons children -- often on their own -- migrate to the United States. We we will look at the detention of unaccompanied immigrant minors once they are apprehended by immigration and study the legal protections that are available to them. As part of the seminar component, this course will involve multiple writing assignments throughout the semester.

For interested students, particularly students who speak Spanish, there may be an opportunity to earn additional credits through a directed research project that would involve traveling to immigrant detention centers to deliver know your rights presentations. There would also be a writing component.

Innovations in Low Wage Worker Organizing: “Alt-Labor,” Labor Law, and the First Amendment 

While the number of U.S. workers in unions has been in steep decline for decades, in recent years creative methods and forms of worker organizing have started to appear, perhaps pointing to new avenues for the labor movement’s revival. Some have labeled these innovative drives “alternative” or “alt-labor” because they often seek to improve working conditions outside of a collective bargaining relationship and sometimes outside of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) itself.

This seminar will consider the features and future of alt-labor using legal, historical, sociological, and media materials, focusing especially on active campaigns in the fast food and retail sectors, including Walmart. The seminar will also examine how—no matter the campaign and no matter the strategy—traditional labor law and the evolving interpretations of the First Amendment fundamentally impact alt-labor in ways that can endanger these emerging efforts.

Class time will be intensely focused on discussion, and completion of the course will require a substantial writing assignment. Prior knowledge of the NLRA is not presumed, but concurrent enrollment in Labor Law will provide a useful context.

Reinventing the Delivery of Legal Services 

This seminar will examine the legal, ethical and market barriers that prevent many low and moderate income persons from accessing legal services in civil matters. It will also explore the traditional approaches to remedying this problem, namely increasing pro bono services and funding for legal aid, as well as alternative approaches that challenge the established model for delivering legal services such as deregulating the legal services market, licensing legal professionals other than lawyers, alternative business structures, and the impact of technology on increasing access to legal services. All of these topics will be relevant to the next generation of lawyers who are facing criticism that there are too many lawyers (as evidenced by the job market) at the same time that the public's need for legal services is increasingly unmet. The next generation of lawyers will need to develop innovative ideas to solve this paradox.

Seminar on Disability Law

The Disability Law seminar will explore the rights provided employees who are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition, the students will explore various municipal state and federal laws that cover employees who would otherwise experience discrimination due to their disabilities. This is a writing seminar, and students will be responsible for writing a paper that satisfies the upper-division writing requirement. 

Seminar on Bioethics

Bioethics addresses the critically important issues at the intersection of law, medicine, and ethics. In this time of proliferation of biomedical knowledge and biotechnologies, the bioethics issues raised are complex and crucial to our society. Particular issues covered may include the following: ethical theories, euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide, reproductive technology, human genetics, human research ethics, cloning, and organ transplantation. The seminar will have ample opportunity for discussion, student presentations and student research in that each student will write a substantial paper in a subject of the students’ interest and present their research to the class.

Seminar on North Korea

North Korea combines the worst human rights situation in the world with one of the most menacing security threats. This interdisciplinary seminar explores these dual crises. It addresses legal aspects while seeking to bring to light the real-life impact on fellow human beings. The course will delve into the narrative side of the crises, as well as their intersection with international criminal, humanitarian and human rights law. While North Korea is sui generis in ways, it also parallels other regimes historically and currently. As such, lessons from North Korea may be applied more broadly. This seminar counts towards completion of the International Law Certificate."

Seminar on Judicial Politics

“The judicial branch of the Government has only one duty -- to lay the article of the Constitution which is invoked beside the statute which is challenged and to decide whether the latter squares with the former. All the court does, or can do, is to announce its considered judgment upon the question.”
- Justice Owen Roberts, United States v. Butler (1936)

“I think it’s bad, long-term, if people identify the rule of law with how individual justices vote.”
- Chief Justice John Roberts, 2007

This seminar explores the history of scholarship on law and courts. We will take an historical approach in examining the various schools of thought that have dominated the literature from sociological jurisprudence to legal realism and critical legal studies in the legal academy and from behavioralism to rational choice and new institutionalism in political science. Have these approaches been successful in furthering our understanding of judicial behavior and the role of law in society? Do contemporary approaches provide sufficient explanations or is something missing? To this end, students are required to vigorously participate in weekly seminars and write four separate thought papers about the issues discussed. Students with an interest in doing research on law and courts may substitute a literature review or original research project for the thought papers.

Advanced Statutory Interpretation

This seminar will explore contemporary statutory interpretation literature and will require students to read and discuss leading articles and cases that raise issues of statutory interpretation and the legislative process. Specifically, the seminar will examine the role of the court in construing statutes, the jurisprudence of statutory law, the respective legislative and judicial cultures and processes, as well as topical issues such as the controversy surrounding the use of legislative history and other extrinsic aids in interpretation. The course is intended to be integrative and reflective. Students will be expected to write a substantial (roughly 25-30 pages) paper on an area of original research on legislation or a legislative proposal, statutory interpretation, or the relationship between the legislative and judicial branches. Students will also be expected to read and critique published scholarly works in class, attend individual editing meetings with Professor Widman throughout the writing process, and present their papers to the class at the semester’s end. This seminar fulfills the writing requirement.

Comparative Law

An overview of the comparative approach to law, including matters of methodology, historical analysis, jurisprudence and political economy. Discussion of the world’s major legal systems, notably the common law and civil law traditions, with additional study of legal traditions in China, Japan and the Islamic world.

International Intellectual Property

The seminar will present the global perspective of copyrights, patents, trademarks and other intellectual property rights. Students enrolled in this seminar will examine domestic and foreign intellectual property law, multilateral treaties, and other international agreements that affect the protection and enforcement of intellectual property worldwide and develop a research paper focused on a topic in international intellectual property. The seminar may incorporate guest speakers involved in the practice of international intellectual property.

Women, Law, and the Global Economy

This is a legal scholarship seminar. Students are introduced to the concepts of globalization of the economy and the arguments for and against free trade, regulation of trade and its impact on women and other vulnerable groups. There are no prerequisites, although a background knowledge of feminist theory or Women’s Studies is helpful. The seminar meets the graduation writing requirement for 3L students at the NIU College of Law.

This course grew out of research conducted by the instructor at the U.S.-Mexico border which examined the impact of NAFTA and immigration policy on the working women and their families employed by U.S. multinational corporations in factories ("maquiladoras"). Students engage in critical discourse about the role of the law and public policy on free trade in creating and perpetuating conditions of poverty and disenfranchisement for the people in countries of the global South whose natural and human resources tend to be exploited by individual and corporate consumers in the global North.

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Swen Parson Hall 151

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Swen Parson Hall 151

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