Law Professors Open Homes to Classes

March 18, 2010

Every year, some Law School's faculty members open their homes to provide students a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

Greenberg Seminars are one-credit courses taught by two faculty members and hosted in their homes. Due to their popularity and limited class sizes, students' acceptance into the seminars is determined by a lottery. The groups meet five or more times throughout the year, and topics are far-ranging, usually touching on the academic expertise and special interests of their faculty hosts.

A prime example can be found in the Greenberg Seminar currently taught by amateur chefs Douglas Baird, the Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor of Law, and Omri Ben-Shahar, the Frank and Bernice J. Greenberg Professor of Law. Their seminar on food law is exploring issues from genetically modified food to food labeling to price and nutrition controls. As if students needed more incentive to take the course, the professors also promise their lucky class nightly dinners.

The Greenberg Seminars are a fairly recent addition to the Law School's course list. Former Dean Saul Levmore, now the William B. Graham Professor of Law, established them shortly after becoming dean eight years ago. Funded by Daniel Greenberg, '65, and Susan Steinhauser, the courses are intended to foster student-faculty interaction in a setting similar to the dinners hosted decades ago by Law School legends Professors Karl Llewelyn and Soia Mentschikoff.

The ideas shared during the seminars sometimes make their way to a larger audience. The Greenberg Seminar Shakespeare and the Law inspired a conference of the same name that featured student and faculty performances of scenes from Shakespeare's plays and a visit from Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer (who played the ghost of Hamlet's father).

Fourteen faculty members teamed this academic year to host seven Greenberg Seminars.

Students were treated to a historic exploration of the significant criminal cases to come out of Chicago, as well as a look at the city's modern-day crime issues, guided by Assistant Professor Jonathan Masur and Richard McAdams, the Bernard D. Meltzer Professor of Law.

Much like the Shakespeare seminar and conference she hosted, Martha Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, is organizing a conference in May based on a Greenberg Seminar she is teaching with Assistant Professor Alison LaCroix. Students in their seminar, Gender, Power, and the Novel, are discussing the way in which British novels of the 18th and 19th centuries reflect the status and opportunities of women.

Other Law School faculty hosting Greenberg Seminars this year are Assistant Professor Aziz Huq and Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law Eric Posner (The Global Financial Crisis); Levmore and Seymour Logan Professor of Law Julie Roin (What Can We Learn from the Peace Corps and Teach for America?); and Assistant Professor Jacob Gersen and Professor Tom Ginsburg (Wine, Law, and Politics).