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Center for Law and Social Science (CLASS)

An umbrella center dedicated to coordinating collaboration across the social sciences and law

The Center for Law and Social Science is an umbrella organization dedicated to a core intellectual mission of the Gould School of Law-investigating the relationship between law and the social sciences, spanning the fields of economics, political science, psychology, sociology and more. The Center seeks to expand our understanding of how law and legal institutions work and to develop sound policies to achieve goals such as a fair social order and a productive economy. The Center is designed to boost and coordinate the wide variety of scholarly work and events devoted to this line of inquiry.

CLASS has evolved from the highly successful Center for Law, Economics and Organization (CLEO), based at the Gould School of Law. Established in 1994, CLEO was one of the first dedicated centers in law and economics in the country. A multidisciplinary endeavor from the start, CLEO hosted a lively high profile workshop series that brought together researchers with interests in law, economics and organization from across campus. CLEO also hosted a number of week- and semester-long visitors in law and economics, provided scholarships for students, supported the research activities of faculty and sponsored a number of conferences.

CLASS represents the next stage of the multidisciplinary approach that CLEO helped to foster. When law and economics emerged as a field in the 1980s, it was a pioneer of the interdisciplinary movement in legal scholarship more generally-a movement in which USC Law School played a pioneering and formative role. The past decade, however, has seen an explosion in interdisciplinary work involving multiple fields, reflected in the widespread hiring of political scientists, historians, philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, and more into elite law faculties. The past decade has also seen a flowering of formal methodologies, moving beyond theoretical analysis closely linked to traditional policy-based legal analysis to incorporate increasing use of empirical methods including large-scale data analysis, field studies and behavioral experiments. At many law schools this expansion of interdisciplinary work has resulted in the dissolution of existing programs or their fragmentation into sub-fields such as law and politics, law and psychology, and empirical legal studies. The interdisciplinary community at USC, however, is enthusiastic about charting a different course. The sheer size of USC's contingent of social scientists and the strong affinity of their interdisciplinary interests has spurred the establishment of a novel approach that integrates work that across the social sciences. CLASS is designed to embody and facilitate this novel approach.

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Specific activities within CLASS include the following:

  • CLASS Workshop:
    This weekly seminar is the centerpiece of CLASS. The workshop hosts visiting speakers and provides a venue for members of the Law School and broader USC community to discuss leading-edge work on law and social science. While we expect to provide a forum for scientific research of the highest scholarly standards, the series format will prioritize cross disciplinary discussion and legal implementation rather than highly technical or narrowly specialized disciplinary work.

    The workshop will meet every week, and feature visiting speakers about every second week. The alternate meetings will be devoted to the work of CLASS members of work at varying stages of completion.

    Click above for current and archived schedules of workshop speakers and topics and to access papers presented in the CLASS workshop. Archived schedules and papers from the former CLEO workshop are also available here.

  • Southern California Empirical Legal Studies (SCELS):
    The USC Empirical Legal Studies group (SCELS) enables scholars and students from all over campus to work and collaborate on a range of topics. We host a casual lunchtime workshop series to enable discussion of developing ideas, master classes on methodological topics of interest to our group, and interdisciplinary projects between and among our members. We have received 2 USC Faculty Collaboration Grants to help subsidize our activities.

  • Colloquium on Judicial Behavior:
    In a recent book, Judge Richard A. Posner and his colleagues wrote, "The behavior of American judges, and in particular the determinants of their decisions, are not well understood, including by lawyers, law professors, and even many judges. In part this is because judges in our system are permitted to be, and most are, quite secretive." This colloquium will provide a unique opportunity to explore the behavior of judges, as well as other actors in the legal system including lawyers, litigants, and juries. Six leading scholars in law and in the social sciences will present their research during the semester. In response, students will write two-page reports that critically analyze the scholars' papers.

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