Chicago-Kent offers new course, The American Legal System in Popular Culture, to visitors to the United States

Friday, March 3, 2017

The American Legal System in Popular Culture is a six-credit course offered to students seeking an introduction to the American legal system and how it is portrayed in modern media. The course is targeted at au pairs and others visiting the United States who are interested in a broad understanding of the nation's legal system and its role in shaping American culture.

Date and Location

The course will be offered on May 19 to 21, 2017, at Chicago-Kent College of Law, 565 West Adams Street, Chicago, Illinois. The course will run from 1:00 - 6:00 p.m. on Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday; and from 10:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. The law school is located in downtown Chicago's West Loop neighborhood, conveniently close to public transportation. A final paper will be due from all participants no later than June 15, 2017. The course will be taught by Dean Harold J. Krent and Adjunct Professor Nancy Krent.


The cost for the three-day course is $500.00.


Visit the online registration and payment page to sign up for the course.

Class Limitations

This course is limited to students not regularly enrolled at Chicago-Kent College of Law or Illinois Institute of Technology. It is designed for students visiting from other countries with a limited understanding of or exposure to the American legal system. Students must be fluent in English and able to participate in class discussions and prepare various written assignments, including a five- to seven-page paper at the conclusion of the course.


This course will examine the American legal system and its importance in understanding the nation's culture. The class will include a mock trial and exposure to video depictions of trials. In addition, the students will learn the fundamentals of the American judicial system and how it differs from the continental system in other parts of the world. They will also gain familiarity with some of the basic Constitutional protections available in this country. The class will also provide exposure to alternative methods for resolving legal disputes — methods that may prove useful in everyday life. After the classes conclude, the students will write a final paper on the treatment of legal issues in a contemporary movie.

Prior to the first day of class, each student will be assigned a popular film (available on video or by streaming service) and a television program to view focusing on legal issues. This will help familiarize the student with media portrayals of the American justice system. The student will also be expected to write a brief essay (one to two pages) discussing a famous trial from her home country, explaining why the trial was significant. The essay will be due at the beginning of the first class.

The first portion of the class will focus on the jury trial system. Following a lecture on the structure of the legal system in the United States, the students will view the film "Twelve Angry Men." The next morning, the students will participate as jurors in a mock trial. After deliberations, the students will discuss the various aspects of the trial and consider what factors led them to their verdict. Students will use these experiences to consider the dynamics of jury deliberations and the importance of the representativeness of the jury.

The second section of the course will focus on the legal system as an avenue of social change. This section will begin with the screening of the film "The Road to Brown" — a film dramatizing the events leading up to the landmark case desegregating schools in this country. We will then discuss the film and how the civil rights struggle has shaped modern American culture. Later in the day, we will present the students with fact patterns from cases raising civil rights issues. Students will study the fact patterns in groups to prepare for brief presentations the next day. On Sunday, students will make their presentations to the rest of the class based on their analysis of the fact patterns and then answer questions from the rest of the class about the topic. All fact patterns will touch upon a contemporary issue of social concern.

The last portion of Sunday will be devoted to an exploration of alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation. The students will have an opportunity to participate in mediation exercises. These skills should prove useful in resolving non-legal disputes as well.

Following the completion of the final class, each student will be expected to prepare a five- to seven-page paper. The student will be expected to view a film or television portrayal of another trial and to analyze it based on the issues discussed in class. We will provide a list of suitable films.

The paper must be turned in to the instructors by June 15 in order for the student to receive credit.

>> To sign up now, fill out the online registration and payment form.


Please contact Dean Harold Krent