School of Law Adopts Transnational Law Course for First Year Students

Lexington, VA Friday, May 02, 2008

The faculty of Washington and Lee University School of Law has voted unanimously to include Transnational Law as a required first-year course. Transnational Law will be offered in the second semester of the first-year.

"However 'global' in scope the practice of law may be today, it seems very likely to be even more so and for more lawyers in the decades ahead," said Professor Bob Danforth, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.

"Law schools must acknowledge this reality and introduce students early on to the effects of globalization on the formulation, content, and practice of law and regulation in the modern world."

Lawyers increasingly require conversance with international, foreign, and extraterritorial law in all aspects of their legal work. The new Transnational Law course introduces students to core principles of public and private international law, comparative law, foreign law, cross-border legal process and deal-making, transboundary dispute resolution, and elements of U.S. law that have international effects.

This curriculum change is the latest in a bold series of moves by the School to expand its international and comparative law programs. In 2006, the School founded the Transnational Law Institute, directed by Mark A. Drumbl, Class of 1975 Alumni Professor of Law. The Institute offers a dynamic speakers' series, which already has featured two Presidents of the American Society of International Law; coordinates student internships in international and comparative law in places as diverse as Kosovo, Sarajevo, and with United Nations organizations; sponsors Visiting Faculty and Scholars; and oversees pedagogical initiatives such as the new Transnational Law course.

"Making the integrated study of international and comparative law compulsory in the first-year puts us way ahead of the curve in terms of mainstreaming the realities of globalization for our students," said Drumbl. "This addition to our first year also prepares all of our students for rigorous theoretical work in international and comparative law in the form of upper-year interdisciplinary research seminars and also for the cutting-edge experiential courses we are offering in the field."

When Drumbl speaks of cutting-edge experiential courses, he refers to the legal practicum offerings that have sprung from the Institute's mission. These practica involve international travel and applied learning experiences for upper-level students.

In fall 2007, students in the International Law Practicum began providing detailed analysis on legal issues for the Defense Support Unit of the ECCC, the tribunal established to prosecute the Khmer Rouge leadership in Cambodia.  This spring, students in the practicum helped establish a human rights course and monitor training programs in Liberia, West Africa. Travel to Liberia, supported by the Institute, is a compulsory part of the practicum. 

W&L law students traveled to Liberia during spring 2008 and met with Liberian law students at their school, shown above. (Picture by Jenn Lavoie '08)

Both of these practica will continue to be offered by Professor Thomas Rice in upcoming academic years. Beginning in fall 2008, students also will have the opportunity to participate in the Rule of Law in Iraq practicum under the guidance of Professor Tim MacDonnell, who will join W&L this summer as a clinical professor from his current position as JAG Lawyer in Baghdad. Students in the practicum will support the first-ever defense center in Baghdad by researching and providing written advice on a wide range of legal issues arising in the context of a civil code inquisitorial criminal justice system. 

A stellar group of international and comparative law scholars will join the permanent faculty this fall. They are Professors Russell Miller, a specialist in comparative law and the co-editor-in-chief of the German Law Journal (which now claims W&L as a home), Johanna Bond (international human hights law; international law and gender), Susan Franck (international economic law), and Hari Osofsky (international environmental law).

In addition, the faculty maintains impressive strength in international criminal law and public international law with Rick Kirgis and Mark Drumbl's continued presence on the faculty.  Taken as a whole, this group of scholars has published books with top academic presses and articles in leading U.S. and foreign law journals. They are high-profile speakers and expert consultants, while remaining devoted to the effective pedagogy of international and comparative law.

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