September 23, 2009

Student Law and Film Societies in the U.S.

For a listserv (the LAWPROF list) I put together some information on Law and Film Societies (not student orgs devoted to entertainment/sports/media law and career opportunities) at U.S. law schools. I'm reproducing it here.

These societies have as their sole or added mission to show and discuss movies. I’ve also included some initiatives undertaken at some schools to increase interest in and awareness of law and film. This list doesn’t include law and film courses (too many to list), festivals, or symposia although some respondents reported on those and they are extremely interesting. A lot of those are listed here as I hear about them.

The Columbia Law School Film Society. This club has a website at but does not seem to have been updated in years, which suggests it is defunct. If someone at Columbia (or elsewhere) can verify that it is funct, please let me know. However, at least one other group has shown a movie (A Class Apart) recently: The American Constitution Society (

Harvard has a law and film series associated with the Program on Negotiation (see Jennifer Schulz, now at the University of Manitoba, led the discussion on the film Chocolat (refreshments included chocolate).

Seton Hall University School of Law’s Marc Poirier reports that there was a school-wide group, active for years, that seems to have ceased this year, possibly because of overscheduling; students have such a wide variety of activities to choose from now. In addition the Lambda Legal Alliance (for which he is faculty advisor) decided this year to do a film series, with three each semester, accompanied by introductory talks and/or discussion, but he is unsure at this point whether it will take off. He also reports that some student groups are trying to organize film series.

John Radsan at the William Mitchell Law School also ran a “spy/crime” film series showing such films as “Goodfellas,” “In the Name of the Father,” and “Syriana.” Professor Radsan also moderated an event called A Strange Bond: The CIA and the Cinema which appeared on public television in Minnesota. Included on the panel were Mark Bowden (author of Black Hawk Down) and John Rizzo (the then Acting General Counsel of the CIA). To welcome new students to Wisconsin Law this summer, the school also sent them all a copy of the novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, and later held an event in the auditorium to discuss the book and to play the movie on the school’s big screen.

Villanova Law School is starting up a student law and film organization this fall. Currently it is co-partnering with the Tax Law Society, which will provide refreshments for both groups. It will show its first film on September 29th.

The University of Chicago Law School Film Fest at Law School Film Fest is listed as a student organization. The festival is currently held annually. According to an email from a former head of the organization:

We hold several movie screenings throughout the year. Each screening is hosted by a professor, and we usually allow him or her to pick the film. The movies are sometimes law-related and sometimes just movies the professor enjoys. We order food for the students and the professor gives a brief introduction to the film followed by a discussion of the film afterward. We typically schedule events for the late afternoon, around 4 o'clock.

Last year, we experimented with holding an actual "film festival" in addition to the periodic film screenings, and it was a great success. We lined up four professors to have screenings for four consecutive days and we planned to have a movie-themed wine mess (a weekly get-together for students and professors at our school) at the end of the week, although that fell through. We usually either rent the movies or check them out from the law school library.

I think there are probably more law and film clubs/groups/societies out there. If so, and I hear of them, I will send out an updated list later on, and post an updated list here.

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