Harvard Law School To Host Conference on Corporate Capture of the Legal System
The hosts of 5-4 Pod, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Prof. Noam Chomsky, Briahna Joy Gray, and other leading experts, scholars, and students will convene to examine the role of corporate interests in corrupting all aspects of the legal system
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 18, 2023 — On January 27 and 28, students in Harvard Law School’s Critical Corporate Theory Lab, a course that publishes an online magazine, The [F]law, will co-host a first-of-its kind conference bringing hundreds of law students and lawyers together to examine corporate capture of the legal system and what might be done about it.
Note that the conference is free, but space is limited and registration is required.
Registration closes on Monday 1/23 at 12:00 pm EST.
The goals of the conference are to highlight the outsized influence and harmful effects of corporate interests on all aspects of the legal system, spotlight legal practices and practitioners whose work challenges and counteracts corporate power, and help supplement the growing coalition of law students, lawyers, and journalists devoted to naming and challenging the problems of excessive corporate power. To those ends, the conference will include a variety of prominent speakers, panelists, and events:
- Long-term anti-corporate crusader, Ralph Nader, will open up the conference on Friday.
- United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and co-author of the book “The Scheme: How the Right Wing Used Dark Money to Capture the Supreme Court” (2022) will describe how anonymous donors seized control of the U.S. Judiciary.
- Rhiannon Hamam, Michael Liroff, and Peter Shamshiri will live-record an episode of their popular podcast, 5-4 Pod, interviewing David Enrich, best-selling author of “Servants of the Damned: Giant Law Firms, Donald Trump, and the Corruption of Justice” (2022).
- Briahna Joy Gray, host of Bad Faith Podcast, will discuss the corporate capture of legislative politics.
- Jon Hanson and Noam Chomsky will discuss the problem of “deep capture” and the cultural and legal sources and consequences of hegemonic corporate power.
- Roundtable discussions topics will include
- “Corporate Capture of the Legal Media” (featuring Maximillian Alvarez, Josie Duffy Rice, and Jay Willis) and
- “Challenging Corporate power by Agitating, Educating, and Organizing” (featuring Sparky Abraham, Molly Coleman, Charity Ryerson, and Bianca Tylek).
- In addition, students in the Critical Corporate Theory Lab who have published work in The [F]law will discuss their work on the corporate capture of legal education, the legal profession, and the law and its implications for anyone concerned about pressing injustices.
- Other panels and presentations will spotlight the work of particular lawyers, including Lauren Barnes, Jayne Conroy, Anna Prakash, Matthew Wessler, and Tom Sobol, who are challenging corporate power and influence to hold corporations accountable for their harms.
- In addition to those substantive sessions, there will be valuable opportunities for law students interested in doing plaintiff-side work to hear from, and meet with, a variety of remarkable justice-oriented plaintiff-side lawyers.
Jon Hanson, the Alan A. Stone Professor of Law and Director of the Systemic Justice Project, is working with students in his class to organize the conference. “Most law students care deeply about injustices that our captured legal system has helped to produce. We hope this conference will provide those students information and inspiration they crave to build justice justice- centered careers.”
Lauren Barnes, a partner and lawyer from Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, said this about the event: “We see the consolidation and abuse of corporate power over so much of our society, and particularly over the foundations of the civil justice system, growing at an accelerating pace. So many students want to play a role in combating that power and the plaintiffs’ bar historically has done a poor job of demonstrating the myriad ways they can do so. This conference,” Barnes added, “is a huge step in the right direction. To say I’m over the moon about participating and helping connect like-minded justice-oriented students and practitioners is an understatement.”
Sam Perri, a third-year law student helping to organize the event agrees. “Legal education tacitly minimizes the immense influence that corporations have over the legal system. There are barely any opportunities available for students to learn how to best resist and push back against that influence.” This conference, Perri explains, “will finally foreground that problem for students, provide concrete solutions, and help build a justice-oriented community that is so needed and critical for systemic change.”
Co-sponsors for the event include Harvard Plaintiffs’ Law Association, HLS Law and Philosophy Society, and The Harvard Law Record. Generous support provided by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.