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Thursday, September 06, 2012

Transnational Law

In the spring, I will be teaching a required Transnational Law class to first year law students.  (As far as I know, Washington & Lee is one of only a handful of schools that have this class in the first year.)  As part of a casebook project that Mike Ramsey, Chris Whytock, and I have been working on that is tentatively entitled "Transnational Law and Practice," I have been thinking a good amount about what the proper coverage for such a class should be.  I imagine most schools have an international law or transnational law class that focuses primarily on public international law, and augment that offering with smaller seminars on international human rights or international civil litigation classes.

I am leaning towards taking an approach to the course that is more practice oriented.  As such, it will likely include more transnational law in United States courts--a mix of civil procedure, federal courts, international arbitration, and international law--than straight public international law.  The idea being to conduct the class from the perspective of what today's law students entering the profession are likely to encounter as the legal profession continues the process of globalization.

So, here is my question:  What should the canon for such a course look like?  How much public international law should there be?  How much comparative law?  I would be particulary interested to hear from folks at schools that have a required or optional first year international law course or a required upper division course.

Posted by Trey Childress on September 6, 2012 at 11:36 AM | Permalink


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There is no canon on transnational law. Proper coverage has been discussed for a generation. See, e.g., Richard W. Edwards, Jr. International Legal Studies: A Survey of Teaching in American Law Schools 1963-1964; Craig L. Jackson & Robert L. McGeorge, Teaching International Business Transactions (1995); International Association of Law Schools, The Law of International Business Transactions: A Global Perspective, Hamburg, Germany April 10-12, 2008, available at http://www.ialsnet.org/the-law-of-international-business-transactions-a-global-perspective-papers/; Symposium, Various Authors, The Next Thirty Years of Foreign and Comparative Law, 19 AM. J. COMP. LAW 615-699 (1971); American Society of Comparative Law Annual Meeting 2011 workshop on identifying and achieving the objectives of the comparative law curriculum, videos available at http://www.mcgeorge.edu/Faculty_and_Scholarship/Centers_and_Institutes/Global_Center_for_Business_and_Development/Global_Center_Conferences_and_Symposia/ASCL_Annual_Meeting.htm.

Be sure to check out what Matthias Reimann at the University of Michigan ( he has a similar course) and Frank Gevurz & Co. at McGeorge (they introduce international elements into ordinary courses) have done.

Having actually been in international practice for twenty years, I think the most important thing for students to learn is how to deal with foreign lawyers in private transactions and litigation. That's the stuff that they are most likely to encounter. Students should know how their opposite numbers think. That means comparative law has an important part. This is not, however, what most students expect.

In making your coverage selection you may want to think about your student evaluations. Many students do not like foreign elements included in their classes or they may have different ideas than you do as to what to include. They will let you know on their student evaluations. See Brian K. Landsberg, Globalizing the Curriculum Through the Introduction of International, Transnational and Comparative Law Issues into Traditionally Domestically Oriented Required Courses,” Global Legal Skills Conference IV, June 5, 2009, available at http://www.mcgeorge.edu/Documents/BLandsberg_ReportonGlobalIssuesinDomesticCourses.pdf.

I have had several unpleasant surprises. In an IBT class, I got a terrible score from a student who complained, “nothing about securities laws, tax issues/shelters, negotiations.” I think he got the idea that they would be included from a different course a departed colleague had taught.

My school recently introduced a semi-mandatory comparative law class. I got killed on student evaluations for suggesting that European law might be preferable to US law. Unfortunately for me, the school worships student evaluations, compares faculty members based on their average student evaluations and,it seems, does not take into account unusual courses. The lesson for other professors is to be sure that they have the administration and faculty behind them. I don’t think that Professor Childress will have the problem, since he will have Nora Demleitner as Dean.

Posted by: James Maxeiner | Sep 6, 2012 4:35:10 PM

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