David M. Trubek is Voss-Bascom Professor of Law and Dean of International Studies Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Senior Global Fellow at FGV Direito SP, the FGV Law School in Sao Paulo.

In this podcast episode, Professor Trubek describes the factors within law schools that led to the creation of CLS and to its downfall. Trubek explains the rigid, hierarchical nature of the classroom, the psychological toll that things like law review took, and the sexism of law schools at the time. Duncan Kennedy’s Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy pointed this out, but it had been taken as a given, Trubek explains, until then.

Trubek discusses the momentum of the CLS movement after the first meeting, particularly as energetic debates took place between more traditional leftists and newer radicals. Trubek ultimately traces the downfall of the movement not to these internal tensions but to the crackdown on CLS from law schools, especially Harvard. Was the air of radical chic CLS adopted the cause of its downfall? Was it an integral part of its popularity in the first place? Trubek’s answer is that it’s probably both.

With the CLS brand becoming toxic, new people became increasingly difficult to find, and the momentum failed. Trubek ends by discussing his remarkable career after CLS, mostly at Wisconsin and in international law, and the way CLS lives on under different names in legal academics today. 

During this interview, you’ll hear Professor Trubek mention some of the other influential figures in the Critical Legal Studies movement, other schools of thought, and some important legal theoretical concepts or works. You can find links to most of those among the “Referenced Scholars and Works” section below. In addition, we’ve included a rough transcript of the entire episode below that.