University of Pittsburgh

Law and Human Behavior

Catalog Number: 5132
3.0 Credits
Priority: General Enrollment Course
Catalog Requirements: "W" Writing.

In order to be effective, lawyers must understand both their clients and the operation of the legal system. Often, legal analysis imbues both clients and the legal system with the qualities of rationality: clients engage in cost-benefit calculations of success and the standard of the legal system is the “reasonable person.” Recent developments in the social and natural sciences raise questions about the sufficiency of these models. The standard definition of rationality may be too narrow – a client may want an apology from an adversary rather than just a monetary award – and clients and legal systems do not always act in rational ways. This course will provide students with concrete insights from the social and natural sciences to help them become lawyers better able to assess both clients and the workings of the legal system as a whole. Examples will be drawn from a wide array of legal contexts: from client contacts to jury selection to subtle forms of discrimination to judicial ideology. Emphasis will be on understanding human behavior both as a predicate for effective legal regulation and as a predicate for the values – including economic, ideological, and religious values – that inform voting and legislative determinations. Several school faculty who employ these insights in their scholarship will visit the class to discuss their work. The course’s goal is to provide students with a richer set of analytic and practical tools for them to become more effective attorneys in whatever area they may come to practice.

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