Law Students for a Democratic Society (LSDS) is a group of students at Penn Law that seeks to advance a program of critical inquiry and political dissent centered around questions of law and political economy in the face of the legal system’s entrenchment of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism. LSDS strives to cultivate humanistic, politically conscious, radical lawyering at Penn Law through the development of a legal and intellectual framework that supplants questions of economic efficiency with analyses of power and justice.
LSDS was launched in the fall of 2019 and undertook two major projects in its inaugural year: the Disrupting Doctrine speaker series and the Legal Praxis Seminar group independent study. The Disrupting Doctrine series was a set of lectures offering critical perspectives on classes in Penn Law’s first-year curriculum: Contracts, Torts, Civil Procedure, and Criminal Law. The series featured discussions with Sanjukta Paul, Tara Ramchadani, Frank Deale, and Amna Akbar, and sought to identify the ideological assumptions underlying doctrinal courses while simultaneously building a community of like-minded future lawyers. The Legal Praxis Seminar was a for-credit group independent study that sought to situate our legal training in the context of struggles for social, racial, and economic justice. The seminar was designed to be a space for 2L and 3L participants to generate a collective analysis of law and society that integrated students’ experiences, communal identities, and political commitments, while drawing on scholarship from critical legal studies, critical race theory, law and political economy, and feminist legal theory. In the coming academic year, we will continue our effort of building a community of critical inquiry at Penn Law, and we hope to expand our community to connect and collaborate with radical law students at campuses throughout the U.S. and beyond.