Prof. Dennis J. Hutchinson speaks at a podium with the UChicago seal on it.
Prof. Dennis J. Hutchinson, Founding Director of LLSO

The program in Law, Letters, and Society (LLSO) is an interdisciplinary major in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division. LLSO is designed to develop analytical skills and enable informed and critical examination of law broadly construed. The organizing premise of the program is that law is a semi-autonomous domain with its own internal logic, norms, and practices but is also embedded in the broader culture and operates as a tool of social organization. 

Photo of Charles Wegener
Prof. Charles Wegener, one of the co-founders of LLSO precursor PERL (Politics, Economics, Rhetoric, and Law)

Rather than situating the study of the law solely in contemporary debates in the field of American constitutional law, LLSO seeks to organize its exploration of law through the broader terms of “letters” and “society.” Some LLSO courses approach law primarily as a matter of “letters,” drawing from disciplines like English, philosophy, and political theory. Law is studied as a literary, philosophical, or historical artifact, and questions of interpretation, normative theory, and rhetorical strategy are foregrounded. Other LLSO courses fall more under the general rubric of “society” and make use of the methods of social scientific disciplines, including history, political science, economics, and sociology. Such courses analyze law as a means of social ordering and in terms of cause and effect. They examine law as an element in explanations of both historical events and patterns of social stability and change. For a complete list of course offerings, please view the LLSO page in the College Catalog.

Please see below for additional information about the program. Students in the major can direct questions about the Focus Field requirement to David Lebow, LLSO's Program Director, at All other questions should be directed to Sarah Johnson, LLSO's Director of Undergraduate Studies, at 

The Major

    LLSO  28040 Introduction to Law, Letters, and Society* 100
    LLSO 24200 Legal Reasoning 100
    One Junior Colloquium 100
    Four Focus Field Courses  400
    Two Elective Courses** 200
    LLSO 29400 BA Seminar I*** 100
    LLSO 29401 BA Seminar II*** 100
    Total Units 1100

    *Students admitted to LLSO who have not yet taken Intro to LLSO must do so in their junior year. Only in exceptional circumstances will LLSO senior enrollment in Intro to LLSO be approved.

    **Any LLSO-registered course not being counted to fulfill another LLSO requirement can be used to satisfy the Elective requirement. Junior Colloquia not already being counted for the core requirement may be used towards satisfying the Elective requirement.

    ***Students may be excused from BA Seminar I and II if they receive approval to write a joint thesis and to enroll in equivalent coursework in their other major. Equivalent courses are those that support students through the process of writing a BA thesis over at least two quarters. They are often called BA or Senior Seminars, Colloquia, or Workshops. Independent study courses, and quarters of a BA Seminar that are devoted entirely to independent work, do not count as equivalents. Students must take both quarters of the LLSO BA Seminar if their other major doesn’t offer two quarters of classroom-based instruction and workshops. BA/MA students must take the LLSO BA Seminar sequence or equivalent coursework in another undergraduate program. Students are expected to remain in the same section for BA Seminar I and BA Seminar II. 

    An undergraduate major in legal studies open to the investigation of law from the perspectives of both “letters” and “society” must be interdisciplinary and wide-ranging. This vital curricular openness must be balanced against the need for a major to have disciplinary integrity. The courses a student takes should complement each other and add up to sustained treatment of a coherent subject. LLSO uses Focus Fields to offer students in the program wide latitude to pursue their particular interests, while ensuring that each student engages in a coherent course of study.

    During the Autumn Quarter of their junior year, LLSO students have the option of designing their own independent research programs. These Focus Field plans are developed in consultation with and must be approved by the LLSO program administration. The Focus Field is centered around a basic theme or topic developed by the student. This theme or topic (a) must be related to law, broadly understood, and fall within the substantive bounds of LLSO; and (b) must be sufficiently focused and coherent.

    This Focus Field plan will consist of four courses that the student has taken or plans to take, which may be drawn from available offerings throughout the University of Chicago. It is not necessary that every course included in the Focus Field have a clear or explicit legal focus, but all courses included in the plan must clearly fit within the overarching topic or theme of the Focus Field (which itself must be related to law). Coursework completed before admission to LLSO may be counted as part of the Focus Field.

    Students who do not wish to develop an independent research program may instead opt to make “LLSO” their Focus Field. They can satisfy the Focus Field requirement by completing any four LLSO-listed courses that are not being counted to fulfill other LLSO requirements (such as the two Electives). Only courses with an LLSO designation may be counted in these “LLSO” Focus Fields.

    Students should submit their Focus Field application by November 15 of their third-year at this link.

    Students should consult the Focus Field FAQ page and/or contact Morgan Lott ( if they have questions.

    • Authority, Law, and Revolution
    • Between and Beyond Borders
    • Collective Action in Cities
    • Conflict Resolution in International Politics
    • Economic and Social Policy
    • Economics of Organizations
    • Education Law and Administration 
    • Environmental Policy, Law, and Economics
    • Formation and Evolution of American Democracy
    • Gender, Sexuality, and the Family
    • History of Constitutional Theory and Practice 
    • Immigration Law and Rights
    • International Human Rights Law
    • Law and Artificial Intelligence
    • Law and Childhood
    • Law and Democracy
    • Law and Early Christianity
    • Law and Economics
    • Law and Empire
    • Law and Inequality in the United States
    • Law and Judaism
    • Law and Marginalization
    • Law and Politics of the American Immigration System
    • Law and Politics of Global Capitalism 
    • Law in 20th Century China
    • Law in Classical History and Literature
    • Law in the International Sphere
    • Law, Coercion, and Control
    • Law, Democracy, and Religion
    • Law, Politics, and History in the Sinosphere
    • Law, War, and Rebellion
    • Legal and Political Discourse
    • Market Structures and Regulation
    • Philosophy and Practice of Women's Rights and Oppression
    • Policy and Regulation of the U.S. Healthcare Industry
    • Political Economy of Education
    • Political Economy of Gender
    • Queerness in the Law
    • Race and Law
    • Race Formation and the State
    • Security and the State
    • Stratification, Domination, and Class Conflict
    • Violence and the Law
    • Women and Work

    Junior Colloquia for 2023–24

    Autumn 2023

    • LLSO 28307 - Populism in the United States: Past and Present
      • Instructors: Jonathan Ira Levy
    • LLSO 29710 - Frontiers in Progressive Legal Scholarship 
      • Instructor: David Lebow

    Winter 2024

    • LLSO 29073 - States of Exception in American History
      • Instructor: Joel Isaac
    • LLSO 28233 - Machiavelli on Speaking Truth to Power
      • Instructor: John McCormick
    • LLSO 29702 - Feminist Theory and Political Economy
      • Instructor: Sarah Johnson
    • LLSO 25411 - Not Just The Facts: Telling About The American South
      • Instructor: Jane Dailey

    Spring 2024

    • LLSO 29711 - Law and Religion in the Modern United States 
      • Instructor: Jacob Betz
    • LLSO 29712 - Comparative Constitutional Studies
      • Instructor: Shamshad Pasarlay

    Every LLSO major must produce an original piece of scholarship that is animated by a question about law. This question will generally emerge out of the topics and themes explored by the student in the Focus Field coursework. The LLSO BA thesis is the length of an academic journal article, which in most cases is between 10,000 and 12,000 words. The minimum length is 8,000 words. An electronic copy of the thesis must be submitted to the Program Administrator by noon on Friday of the third week of the quarter in which the student expects to graduate.

    During the Autumn and Winter Quarters of their fourth year, students are guided through the process of developing a research project and writing a thesis in the program’s two-part BA Seminar. Participation in both parts is required. A letter grade is assigned at the end of LLSO 29400 BA Seminar I based on the student’s performance in the Autumn Quarter. The grade for LLSO 29401 BA Seminar II reflects the student’s performance in the Winter Quarter as well as the quality of the thesis, and for this reason it remains blank until the thesis has been evaluated.

    Due to the nature of the LLSO curriculum, it is not possible to take the BA Seminar prior to the fourth year. This means that LLSO majors should not plan to study abroad in their fourth year or plan to finish their coursework before the Winter Quarter of their fourth year. Students should also be aware that graduating in the Winter Quarter will require them to write their thesis on an accelerated schedule, which the program strongly discourages. For this reason, students who are in a position to graduate at the end of the Winter Quarter should discuss the Extended Enrollment option with their College Adviser, as this will allow them to work on their thesis until the spring quarter. 

    The BA thesis may be written under the supervision of a faculty adviser whose area of expertise is relevant to the student’s research. The adviser can be a member of any department. Working with a faculty adviser does not excuse a student from the BA Seminar.

    Students who intend to write a single thesis to fulfill the requirements of two majors may be excused from the LLSO BA Seminar if they enroll in equivalent coursework in another department. Equivalent courses are those that support students through the process of writing a BA thesis over at least two quarters. Independent study courses, single-quarter BA Seminars, and quarters of a BA Seminar that are devoted entirely to independent work do not count as equivalents. In some departments, the equivalents of the LLSO BA Seminar count for 100 units combined instead of 100 units each. In this case, students must make up the missing units either by registering for LLSO 29900 BA Thesis Preparation in the Winter Quarter of their fourth year or by counting an additional elective or Focus Field course toward their LLSO major. Students who wish to enroll in equivalent coursework must submit a petition to write a joint thesis and an approval form for equivalent BA Seminar coursework to the LLSO Director of Undergraduate Studies by the first day of the autumn quarter of their fourth year. 

    Students who are accepted into a BA/MA program at the University are allowed to write a joint thesis but must take both parts of the LLSO BA Seminar, or equivalent coursework in another major, in their fourth year. 

    Students should consult the BA thesis FAQ page and/or contact Sarah Johnson ( if they have questions.

    One Focus Field course may be taken Pass/Fail. One Elective course may be taken Pass/Fail. The five required core LLSO courses must all be taken for a quality grade.

    To be eligible for honors, students must maintain an overall GPA of at least 3.50 and 3.80 in the major. Of these students, those whose GPA in the major places them in the top 15 percent of their cohort are automatically considered for honors by the program’s Honors Committee. The committee confers honors on eligible students who write distinguished BA theses.

    Honors recipients will be notified via email by the end of the ninth week of the spring quarter. 

    Focus Field Form

    Joint Thesis Petition

    Approval Form for Equivalent BA Seminar Coursework

    BA Thesis Guidelines

    BA Thesis Cover Page

    BA Thesis Submission Form

Curricular Initiatives

    Our September course in Paris provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to earn an upper-level LLSO credit by exploring European perspectives and institutions focused on economy, law, and globalization. While the Paris September LLSO program is open to all University of Chicago undergraduate students, priority consideration is given to LLSO majors.

    Past course offerings have included:

    • Topics in International and Comparative Law
    • Law and Political Economy
    • Neoliberalism in Europe
    • Comparative Perspectives on the French Revolution

    Please visit the Study Abroad website for additional information. 

    All students in the College are invited to enroll in the program's Theories of Capitalism sequence (LLSO 29065 and LLSO 29066), which is offered in most years. Students may take just one of the two courses; enrollment in both is strongly encouraged but not required. 

    Theories of Capitalism introduces undergraduates to classic texts in the history of economic thought. Across the sequence, students examine diverse accounts of the forces that govern capitalist societies and the distinctive problems that emerge within them. As they do this, they also look closely at how the economists who developed these theories demarcated the economic domain of human life and consider how their efforts to understand it were shaped by a rich body of intellectual resources.

    Early Theories of Capitalism, the first course, focuses on the theoretical and practical concerns that animated economic writing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Among these are questions about the origins of wealth and value, the effect of machines on the production process, the role of the state in economic life, and the condition and fate of the working class. Readings may include texts by Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Carl Menger, and Alfred Marshall.

    Many of the questions that students explore in the first part of the sequence reappear in the second part, Twentieth-Century Theories of Capitalism. Yet, in this course, students also attend to new preoccupations that emerged as capitalism continued to evolve. Among these are questions about the role of uncertainty in economic processes, the nature of a competitive economic order, and the effects of private wealth accumulation on society and individuals. Readings may include works by Thorstein Veblen, Frank Knight, John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek, and John Kenneth Galbraith. 


Photo of Charles Wegener from the University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf1-11370, Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.