A case for therapeutic jurisprudence in legal education and the legal profession

University of Miami Law Review, 2021

University of Baltimore Law Review, 2021

This semester, I had one of my most enjoyable teaching experiences ever at Suffolk University Law School, via a unique course that I’ve designed called the “Law and Psychology Lab” (LPL), a four-credit, workshop-type offering that examines the intersection of law and psychology in ways that are relevant to legal practice, law reform, and the legal profession. The course explores law and psychology primarily through the lens of therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ), a multidisciplinary field of theory and practice that examines the therapeutic and anti-therapeutic properties of law and policy, legal processes, and legal institutions.

I’ve referenced TJ frequently on this blog. It has become a central framing theory for my work in drafting and advocating for legal protections against workplace bullying. It has also profoundly shaped the way in which I look at the law in general. In fact, from 2017-19, I served as the founding board chairperson of the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence, a global, non-profit organization dedicated to public education about TJ.

I designed the LPL course to engage students in a variety of discussions, presentations, and projects. Ideally, it is intended to work best in an in-person format, with only occasional reliance on Zoom for specified reasons, such as guest speakers. However, after teaching the course the first three times either partially or all online due to the pandemic, this was the first offering that didn’t involve the ongoing use of Zoom to hold class.

Perhaps this is a reason why the course went so well this past fall. But the main reason is that we had a great blend of students who were eager to dig into the subject matter, engage one another in conversation, and keep an open mind toward new concepts and ideas. It was so gratifying to see the learning process unfold during the course of the semester. Among other things, it helped to underscore my belief that TJ has so much to offer in terms of reforming our laws and legal procedures and building our legal institutions. The ways in which my students discussed, applied, and even embraced TJ also illustrated its very practical utility; this is not highfalutin theory, disconnected from on-the-ground relevance.

I am now preparing to teach a very truncated version of the LPL during our one-week intersession period next week, a one-credit mini-course called “Introduction to Law and Psychology.” Although I would prefer to teach this course in an in-person format as well, I’ve opted to teach it online so that students will not have to return to campus a week earlier than their peers in order to enroll in it. Nevertheless, I hope this compact offering will provide students with some valuable insights and perspectives that will enhance their legal careers.

Law review articles

Bringing TJ into the law school classroom is partially what I had in mind when I wrote two law review articles that were published in 2021. I also wanted to provide legal educators and others with useful, accessible introductions to TJ.

The first was a lengthy, comprehensive survey of the field of therapeutic jurisprudence, titled “Therapeutic Jurisprudence: Foundations, Expansion, and Assessment,” University of Miami Law Review (2021) (free download, link here). Clocking in at over 90 pages, I use it as the primary text for the Law and Psychology Lab. The article has been very well-received with the TJ community and often is recommended to those who wish to gain an in-depth introduction to this field.

The second is a shorter piece, titled “Teaching Therapeutic Jurisprudence,” University of Baltimore Law Review (2021) (free download, link here), that offers ideas for incorporating TJ into the law school curriculum and makes bibliographic suggestions for reading assignments and research projects. This is now the primary text for the brief Introduction to Law and Psychology course mentioned above.

If you’d like to dip your toe in the world of TJ, then I recommend the University of Baltimore Law Review article. But if you’d like to jump and take a swim, then take a look at the University of Miami Law Review article.

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Educators who would like to review the overall syllabi for the “Law and Psychology Lab” and “Introduction to Law and Psychology” courses may request copies from my staff assistant, Trish McLaughlin, at tmclaughlin@suffolk.edu. Please enter “Yamada Law and Psychology syllabi” in the subject line and provide your full name and institutional affiliation. Thank you!

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