HLS thinks bigger than ever

Faculty carry on annual tradition of sharing scholarship, shorthand

Each May since 2011, Harvard Law School has presented “HLS Thinks Big,” a TED Talks-style event that invites faculty members to present a “big idea” in front of an audience of faculty, students and staff. While the big idea in question can be a distillation of some fully-formed scholarship, faculty members have also presented germs of ideas floated for the first time, hypotheticals up for discussion, and sometimes, topics that look at areas of interest at a more macro level. Whatever the subject, there is only one rule presenters are bound by: Each must deliver their talk in 10 minutes or less.

This year, the event, which is hosted annually by the Dean’s Office and the Office of Human Resources, featured talks by Clinical Professor Bob Bordone, director of the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program; Professor Christine Desan, co-founder of Harvard’s Program on the Study of Capitalism; Phil Heymann, James Barr Ames professor of law, emeritus; Brian Price, clinical professor of law and director of HLS’ Transactional Law Clinics; and Professor Henry Smith, director of the Project on the Foundations of Private Law.

From Desan’s talk, “The Dollar as a Democratic Medium,” which explored how society can “re-design” money to create “fairness in a world where inequality is escalating,” to Smith’s discussion of “Property as a Complex System,” which focused on the burgeoning field of complex systems in law, the speakers provided their listeners with a great deal of food for thought, guiding them through unfamiliar intellectual terrain, and truly embodying the spirit of the event, which, said Dean Martha Minow (who inaugurated the Thinks Big tradition at Harvard Law School), “underscor[es] the basic idea that learning really happens from many minds — people sharing ideas and actually moving across boundaries.”

Bob Bordone, “Building Conflict Capacity: It’s not just about problem-solving.”

Engagement need not be about finding a common ground, but simply being present in conflict.

Christine Desan, “The Dollar as a Democratic Medium:  Making Money a Currency of Social Justice.”

Desan asks whether we can re-design money to deliver more fairness in a world where inequality is escalating.

Philip Heymann, “Comey and Cox, Trump and Nixon.”

There’s much in the lawyer’s job that is never taught in law school, and what’s missing becomes apparent with a close look at major events prominently involving lawyers.

Brian Price, “The Big and the Little.”

Community development as seen through the eyes of a transactional lawyer.

Henry Smith, “Property as a Complex System.”

Reframing property law as a complex adaptive system, rather than just a “bundle of rights.”