About The Systemic Justice Project

The Systemic Justice Project (“SJP”) is directed by Jon Hanson, the Alan A. Stone Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and was co-founded in 2014 by Professor Hanson and Jacob Lipton.

The Systemic Justice Project, through its courses, work product, and collaborations, provides a unique alternative to the conventional means and ends of legal education. SJP, unlike any organization in legal education, helps prepare law students at Harvard and around the U.S. for the challenge of addressing systemic injustices, reimagining and redesigning the legal system, and building new coalitions and organizations to advance justice.

The Systemic Justice Project is devoted to teaching and working with students to understand and respond to systemic injustices by analyzing the legal, historical, cultural, political, economic, and psychological causes of those problems, by recognizing the intersecting relationships among those problems, and by developing theories of change to respond to those problems.

SJP was designed as an alternative to the traditional legal-educational model. Although located at Harvard Law School, SJP takes a problem-centric, not law-centric approach, and works with organizations, lawyers, law students, organizers, activists, journalists, and artists around the U.S. SJP-related courses at Harvard Law School are all designed to create space for law students to learn about and work on systemic injustices that they care most about.

SJP’s Approach

SJP is based on the presumption that our legal system is generally designed to serve power not advance justice and that, relatedly, the conventional model of legal education fails to prepare students to address many of our most sustained and urgent social problems. SJP is committed to creating and developing new models of legal education that give students the knowledge, tools, connections, opportunities, and support they need to push for systemic justice throughout the legal and policymaking  system. 

In contrast to the individualistic, competitive, exam-centered and top-down conventions of legal education, SJP courses promote a systemic, team-based, project-centered, bottom-up approach. The courses draw on mind sciences, history, economics, and critical theory to challenge the individualistic causal presumptions of law and to examine the role of systems, including the legal system, in producing and perpetuating social problems and inequalities.

Instead of presuming that law comprises a legitimate, neutral, and determinate collection of stable rules, SJP courses highlight how law is largely the product of competing interests attempting to bend the law to their advantage. SJP also focuses on a variety of tools for advancing justice and theories of change—from storytelling and social movements to organizing and impact litigation. In those ways and others, SJP seeks to help prepare students to pursue justice-centered legal careers.

SJP’s Courses

Working with dozens of justice-oriented individuals and organizations across the U.S., SJP has created several innovative courses that, consistent with the SJP approach, provides students tools for understanding root causes of systemic policy problems and strategies for addressing them. Those courses include: Systemic Justice, The Justice Lab, The Legal Education Lab, and The Critical Corporate Theory Lab. In addition, as detailed below, SJP has created and refined new ways of teaching traditional courses, including Torts and Corporate Law.

Sample of SJP’s “Work Product”

The Systemic Justice Project has produced a variety of successful legal-educational innovations and collaborations including:

Some Press

  • Harvard Law Record: “A Refreshing Approach to the 1L Curriculum”
  • Harvard Law Today: “Hanson on the Frontiers of Teaching Torts”
  • Radio Boston“Harvard Flips Legal Education on its Head with ‘Systemic Justice’”
  • Boston Globe: “New Harvard Law School program aims for ‘systemic justice’: Inside an initiative to teach future lawyers to tackle society’s big problems”
  • Harvard Law Today: “Systemic Justice: At a Harvard Law School conference, students reimagine the role of lawyers in addressing societal problems”
  • Harvard Crimson“Harvard Law, Howard Law Initiative to School Future Lawyers on Social Justice”
  • Harvard Law Today: “Harvard Law School’s Systemic Justice Project and Howard University School of Law’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center Launch ‘The Justice Initiative’”
  • Tea Time with the Jackson Center“Tea Time with the Jackson Center: Jon Hanson and Enumale Agada”
  • Harvard Law Today: “The Tortys Return: The Oscars-style event, celebrating student short films on tort law and justice, is back in person for its fifth year”
  • DC Tonight“The Justice Initiative – Enumale Agada Interview”
  • Harvard Law Today: “‘Recommit to your childhood dreams of justice’”
  • Harvard Law Today: “‘Do Justice, Class of ’22, Do Justice’”