Symposium Highlights Trends in Teaching International, Transnational Law
Scholars explored emerging themes in education focused on international law at a daylong symposium, “Building Global Professionalism,” sponsored by the Drexel Law Review and the International Law and Human Rights Society on Oct. 12.
The symposium started with an overview of emerging trends by Larry Catá Backer of Penn State, Jorge Luis Esquirol of Florida International University, Vasuki Nesiah of New York University and Fernanda Nicola of American University.
Summer-abroad programs, transnational legal clinics, LL.M. programs for foreign practitioners and specialty courses and programs focused on international issues each pose potential challenges, Esquirol said. He noted, for instance, that summer-abroad programs can give students “a bubble-like experience” that bolsters preconceptions about foreign law and that transnational clinics can allow U.S. laws to eclipse those of localities.
To some degree, Nesiah said, the growth of international programs reflects a desire by law schools to position themselves competitively and generate revenues. Private universities have enormous advantages in this regard, she added.
Law schools face pressures to prepare students for professional practice at the expense of more scholarly activities, Nicola said, adding that protecting the rule of law should remain a core mission. While critics cite a waning influence of the U.S. legal system abroad, she said the widespread translation of American casebooks and citations of U.S. opinions by the European Court of Human Rights suggest the enduring power of American legal thinkers.
Backer distinguished between nationalist and internationalist models, noting that the former aims to promote U.S. models and market-driven competition to shape other legal systems while the latter seek to build a shared consensus between nations. Since those who favor production of wealth and efficiency will back nationalist models, he said, they carry more influence.
Sarah Paoletti of the University of Pennsylvania, Elisabeth Wickeri of Fordham University and Richard Wilson of American University explored efforts to globalize experiential learning. Paoletti discussed strategies for developing clinical programs that enable students to hone cross-cultural skills and avoid adverse impacts for clients. Given the human rights abuses in countries like China, Wickeri said, it is important to choose cases carefully and to partner with non-governmental organizations that know the lay of the land. Citing a case in which students helped gain the release of 22 men from a Mexican prison, Wilson noted that international clinics have the potential to advance human rights and that some programs grew from indigenous efforts.
Martin Flaherty, professor and co-director for the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham University was the event’s keynote speaker. Flaherty’s presentation addressed the responsibilities of law schools operating in authoritarian regimes.
Major legal institutions are creating and promoting law programs in areas governed by authoritarian regimes while ignoring the human rights violations taking place under those regimes, Flaherty said. Flaherty claimed that it is incumbent upon institutions to establish and defend their core academic values while abroad. While Flaherty recognized that, in some instances non-action may be appropriate where challenging a regime could do more harm than good, he stressed that institutions must at least educate themselves about potential human rights violations and recognize their existence so that they are prepared to properly address any problems from within should the opportunity arise.
Following Flaherty’s keynote presentation, a panel of speakers discussed law school programs that use comparative approaches to legal education in “Learning and Working Across Legal Systems.”
Panelist Kerstin Carlson from the American University of Paris, spoke about the cultural importance of law, arguing that effective practitioners abroad must be aware of cultural nuances as well as technical ones to succeed.
Raquel Aldana from the Pacific McGeorge School of Law claimed that one of the most important benefits of educating American law students abroad is that a first-hand encounter with the legal struggles of those abroad fosters the students’ “critical self-reflection” and ensures that they are adequately prepared to engage new legal environments. Alana Klein, assistant professor of law at McGill University in Canada, added that teaching the competing systems of Canadian law had a similar effect on McGill’s students.
Holning S. Lau found similar benefits when teaching his Law and Sexuality class at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Lau’s class investigates sexual orientation law through the lens of foreign legal systems and cultures that have addressed similar issues.
Villanova University School of Law Professor Diane Penneys Edelman echoed Lau’s sentiments explaining that writing assignments which involve international legal issues foster unique perspectives on U.S. legal principles. Similarly, Leighanne Yuh, from Fordham University School of Law, noted that Fordham’s Korea program invites students to approach U.S. law from a different perspective.
Australian National University College of Law Professor Katherine Hall joined the panel via Skype. Hall emphasized that legal practice is becoming more and more global and, thus, in some ways, global lawyers, who are not tied to any specific government, must recognize that their responsibilities go beyond the international legal issues they investigate and influence the behavior of their multi-national corporate employers.
Professors Anil Kalhan and Pammela Quinn Saunders from the Earle Mack School of Law closed the day’s events with a discussion that provided an overview of the various panels throughout the day. Before panelists and guests proceeded to a post-event reception, Saunders thanked Kalhan and the school’s students for organizing such an intellectually enriching event.
Legal Scholars Headline Conference on Business Improvement Districts
Scholars from some of the nation’s top law schools and more than 150 lawyers, community leaders and public officials came to the Earle Mack School of Law on January 22, 2010 for a conference exploring the emerging role of Business Improvement Districts.
The symposium, entitled Business Improvement Districts and the Evolution of Urban Governance, provided an unprecedented opportunity for leading scholars and economic development professionals, elected officials, and students to examine the
ways that BIDs—private organizations authorized to levy assessments and spend these revenues—shape urban economic development initiatives.
“This event brought together four of the preeminent government scholars in the United States to shine a light on this critical issue,” said Daniel M. Filler, senior associate dean for academic and faculty affairs at the law school. The conference featured Richard Briffault of Columbia Law School, Gerald E. Frug of Harvard Law School, Nicole Stelle Garnett of the University of Notre Dame Law School and Richard C. Schragger of the University of Virginia Law School, who discussed the potential opportunities and drawbacks associated with BIDs. Scholars from Drexel and nine other universities and colleges presented case studies of the unique and shared experiences of the city’s 16 BIDs.
Paul Levy, president and CEO of the Center City District, gave a morning address outlining the important role of BIDs locally, nationally, and even internationally. He applauded the goals of the conference, thanking Drexel University for sponsoring the conference and noting that “this is the first meeting of this sort in Philadelphia. There’s been no really good organized effort between the universities, the city, and BIDs.”
Drexel president John Fry, then-president of Franklin & Marshall College and former executive vice president and chief operating officer of the University of Pennsylvania, gave a keynote address outlining the role of BIDs in spurring revitalization of both West Philadelphia and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Fry discussed the economic development initiative that he helped launch in 1996 that fueled an economic renaissance in the neighborhoods surrounding the Penn and Drexel campuses. Early support for the initiative came from the late Drexel University President Taki Papadakis, who Fry said “showed incredible leadership” by committing funds to the redevelopment effort.
Professor Richardson Dilworth, director of Drexel’s Center for Public Policy and an organizer of the event, said BIDs play an important role in cities. “Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, with hundreds of commercial corridors that have their own specific identities,” he said. “BIDs are an opportunity to express that identity.”
National Conference Covers Patient Care, Pandemics and Health Policy Reform Paradigms
Nearly 200 scholars discussed medical research gone awry, prospects for reforming the health-care system and emerging issues in bioethics, among other topics at the 31st Annual Health Law Professors Conference at the Earle Mack School of Law.
The conference, held June 5-7 and sponsored by the American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics, brought together professors who teach in schools of law, medicine, public health, health-care administration, pharmacy, nursing and dentistry.
The annual event allows professors to keep abreast of current trends and translate complex scientific and policy issues into lively topics of discussion, said Barry Furrow, professor of law and director of the Health Law Concentration at the Earle Mack School of Law.
"How do you teach this stuff and bring it to life for students," Furrow said. "How do you give it context and personality?"
A plenary session on health policy addressed the mix of political and economic factors that impinge on efforts to promote universal health insurance and improved patient care.
"The political history has been all about coverage, all about insurance restructuring," said Bill Sage, a law professor at the University of Texas-Austin, a physician and a policy advisor to former President Bill Clinton. "What we really need to embark on is changing the way that people get their preventive care, they way that people engage in health as community projects, as school projects and the way that, if they do get ill, the health care system responds."
Sidney Watson, of the Saint Louis University School of Law, said reforms will only come about if advocates "bust myths" and educate policymakers and voters about the legitimate need for public funding.
Contending the current system improperly limits services that some patients can receive, Ani Satz, associate professor at Emory University School of Law and Rollins School of Public Health outlined a new paradigm for change. Satz proposed a system that would cover all services without restriction while placing an annual or lifetime cap on health care expenditures incurred by any one patient.
Another session addressed issues in biomedical research, including dilemmas faced by researchers who unexpectedly discover medical conditions in human subjects that fall outside the scope of their studies. "The incidental findings problem sounds incidental," said Susan M. Wolf of the University of Minnesota Law School. "It is anything but. It goes right to the core of our thinking about researchers and clinicians. It challenges the line between them."
Researchers have very little guidance for addressing this critical ethical issue, Wolf said, adding that vast volumes of data that accumulate through genomic research will only increase the need to create protocols.
The conference culminated with a reception and dinner at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Wendy Mariner, professor at Boston University's schools of law, medicine and public health, received the Jay Healey Distinguished Health Law Teaching Award. Clark Havighurst, professor emeritus at Duke Law School, was honored with a lifetime achievement award in teaching.