By tradition we build the law school curriculum for the most part around a set of doctrinal boxes. Thus, we teach courses in Contracts, Torts, Property, and so on. But this organizing structure has a somewhat arbitrary, if not illusory, nature. We learn quickly that an actual case presents issues from multiple domains. We begin to see that the practicing lawyer must discern and work with deeper, more fundamental conceptions—conceptions that show little regard for doctrinal boundaries.
An important example of such a fundamental conception is the idea of reliance. Reliance is the antimatter of law—sweeping across legal domains like a cyclone, knocking down cherished fundamental principles. Thus, reliance in contracts law drives us to enforce unenforceable contracts. In property law, the concept justifies the private seizure of another person’s property. Reliance in tort law spawns duties where none existed. The concept also shapes the calculus of damages and creates defenses to otherwise unlawful conduct, again across various legal domains.
We will examine in depth the force of reliance within law. The seminar will also introduce the student to some of the other similar forces in law, ideas such as innocence, culpability, delay, and finality. Each student will write a paper examining reliance or another such force in law, tracing its arc across a set of particular domains.