Boston 2013 Annual Meeting: There is simply no other meeting like it.

Christine Harrington (NYU) and Gregory Shaffer (University of Minnesota)
2013 Program Committee Co-Chairs


The 36th Annual Meeting of the Law & Society Association (LSA) was a fabulous success. Meeting in Boston this year, sociolegal scholars came from every region of the world and represented research on law, legal institutions, political economy and culture from across academic fields. They presented work on cutting-edge research problems, debated methodological approaches, and discussed competing theoretical explanations over the course of four days (May 30-June 2) at a total of 575 panels. There is simply no other meeting like it.

As the 2013 Program Committee Co-Chairs, we assisted our committee* in formulating the conference theme:  Power, Privilege, and the Pursuit of Justice: Legal Challenges in Precarious Times.The theme was chosen for the purposes of inciting scholarly debate on the challenges facing and defining law and society over the next decade.  For example, the financial crisis that struck in early 2008 still rends the economy, politics, law, and society.  How will polarized politics, rapid technological change, and global shifts in economic power affect law and society over the next years, domestically and transnationally?

To explore some of these issues, the committee created eight Mini-Plenaries and a series of Theme Panels, each assembling noted intellectual leaders to comment and lead a discussion on such critical issues as:

Boston 2013 exemplified developments and current trends in Law & Society studies and showed how fascinating, diverse, and encompassing the field has become. We heard constantly how intellectually rich the panels were in their quality and breadth, sparking lively engagement.

Boston 2013 was the second largest LSA conference in the history of the Association, and by far the largest annual meeting held in the United States. The meeting was also among the most international, if not the most international, in terms of participation. The only larger LSA meeting was the 2007 International Meeting in Berlin, which had only 144 more participants.   

The Boston 2013 numbers were:

We deeply appreciate the intellectual and organizational service performed by members of the 2013 Program Committee, as well as the stirring contributions of participants at the conference. We look forward to hearing future socio-legal research advances as we move on to next year’s annual meeting, Minneapolis 2014, where we will celebrate the Association’s  50th anniversary!

* 2013 LSA Program Committee members were Bernadette Atuahene (Chicago Kent), Eric Feldman (University of Pennsylvania), Ruben Garcia (University of Nevada Las Vegas), Lisa Haijar (UC-Santa Barbara), Susan Hirsch (George Mason University), David Law (Washington University), Maira Rocha Machado (FGV São Paulo), Mikael Madsen (University of Copenhagen), Ajay Mehrotra (University of Indiana Bloomington), George Pavlich (University of Alberta), Shannon Portillo (University of Kansas), Song Richardson (University of Iowa), and Shauhin Talesh (UC-Irvine).

Stand Out Events in Boston

Susan Olson
LSA Executive Officer

The Boston meeting had many academic highlights, but a few other special events stand out, too. The Center for the Study of Law & Society at the University of California Berkeley added to its collection of “Conversations in Law and Society” ( with an interview with Richard D.  (“Red”) Schwartz. One of the founders of the Law and Society Association, Professor Schwartz was its second president, the first editor of the Law & Society Review, and has just been honored with the 2013 Ronald Pipkin Service Award.

A new type of session this year, which is likely to continue in the future, was a Methods Café ( . Eleven experts on different research methods made themselves available for individual or small group consultations about using those methods. Conversations at the tables were lively, and many participants raved about their usefulness.

Dean Camille A. Nelson of Suffolk University Law School, a member of LSA, generously hosted a reception at the law school’s striking new building on Saturday evening. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsored the Presidential Address and Awards Luncheon, and the exhibit hall featured the books and other displays of many other sponsors.

Looking Forward to Minneapolis 2014

Begin planning now to attend next year’s annual meeting at the Minneapolis Hilton, May 29-June 1, where we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of LSA’s founding in 1964. A 50th Anniversary Project, chaired by David Trubek, will spend the coming year stimulating discussion of major issues confronting LSA  as it defines its role in sociolegal studies in its second half-century. Bryant Garth will be updating a history of LSA, and a soon-to-be-named Celebration Committee will plan some fun special events for the meeting.

In Boston, the Trustees authorized the 2014 Program Committee and the Executive Office to make some changes to the program planning process, intended to reduce the attrition in the program between submissions and the conference. Start thinking now about papers and other sessions you would like to propose for the meeting because the Call for Papers, submission deadline, and registration deadline will all come earlier than in the past. LSA is also acquiring new submission software. Watch for an email this summer with more information, and be sure that your spam filter is set to accept emails from, so you won’t miss any important information.

Check out the photo gallery from Boston 2013