Interesting one-day symposium at Tilburg U. on the globalization of law. Thrust of the commentary by participants, mainly Europeans, was that globalization is inevitable and the principal challenge is to give adequate theoretical account. Emphasis on big picture theory is interesting, but, I confess left me cool. I have no objection at all to ruminations at 30,000 feet. Rather, what was (to me) peculiar was the essentialist claims about law as inextricably and inevitably global — the phrase “post-national” was frequently invoked. Much more to say on this vital topic than can be accommodated in a blog post. But let me say just a couple words about the connection between the wave of “global law” theory and trends in legal education:
What was striking about the meeting of law deans which meeting accompanied the Tilburg conference (see earlier post on the Law Schools Global League) was just how much heterogeneity we are experiencing in international legal education. There were at least half a dozen palpably distinct models of degree programs illustrated by this reasonably representative crowd. Moreover, vigorous discussion at the meeting was focused on myriad forms of information delivery, comparative emphases on teaching and scholarship, different economic models of legal education, and competing frameworks of bench-bar relations. In short, we saw in action the pluralism of legal education. Meaningful globalization in legal education, as I took from the discussions at the Tilburg meetings, includes at least — and perhaps at most — scrupulous attention to other practices and rigorous comparative analysis. What is doesn’t (oughtn’t??) mean is a move toward a “post-national” regime of legal education, one which sets out universalizing best practices and implements a grand vision of how modern legal education ought to exist on the new international stage.
As I travel around Europe over the next several days, I will offer some additional reflections on these ideas. At the risk of some self-indulgent naval-gaving, I do think the challenge for American law schools — including Northwestern Law School — is to think hard about how to function in this pluralistic, and rapidly changing, world.
Comments (non-anonymous; constructive) very welcome.
I am in the Netherlands meeting with various deans and law profs at Tilburg University Law School. The occasion is an historic one. Twenty-one law schools from around the world are joining together in an alliance to help promote various global initiatives, initiatives ranging from student and faculty exchanges to collaborative teaching and research, to potential certificate/degree programs. These initiatives may be bilateral and multilateral and they will not be exclusive in the sense that other fruitful relationships with non-member institutions are not hindered by this alliance. What this League does promise is a constructive medium for exploring projects that are of significant value to our law students practicing in an increasingly global legal environment.
The League partners span the world; they include high-quality law schools from all over Europe, South America, Asia (China and India), and North America. The only two American law school members are Northwestern and NYU.
After a fruitful, candid discussion about dimensions of this alliance, we signed the “constitution” of this new venture. Associate Dean Jim Speta and I were proud to have NU Law represented in this promising group of globally-focused law schools. This alliance, along with several other internationally oriented projects in the works, reflect Northwestern’s expanding global footprint. We are (obviously) a world-class law school. And we are certainly a law school of the world!
On a hot day in Evanston last Friday, Northwestern University awarded an honorary doctorate in law to Dean Martha Minow of the Harvard Law School. This was just the latest award in a life in the law well lived by Dean Minow. Martha Minow has served as a consummate scholar, influential teacher, able administrator, and extraordary public servant for three decades. In sixteen books and scores of articles, she has influenced how we think about injustice and difference in law and society. Through her teaching, she has influenced thousands of law students (including, perhaps most famously, Barack Obama and Elena Kagan). And, during her long stint at Harvard, she was a powerful force in reshaping the curriculum and in bringing various factions together to common, constructive ends.
Martha was a teacher of mine during my time at Harvard. I have always been grateful for her support and guidance to my academic career and this makes this honorary degree especially meaningful to me as I begin my service as Northwestern’s dean.
I should also note that Dean Minow has a significant connection to Northwestern beyond this honorary degree. She grew up near Evanston and her parents, Jo and Newt Minow, are important friends of our law school and university.
During a recent alumni trip to Milwaukee, I had the pleasure of touring the new law school facility — Eckstein Hall — at Marquette University. Dean Joe Kearney was kind enough to show us around his new digs. This impressive, contemporary-style facility includes a striking atrium just off the entrance.
The architects worked closely with the faculty and dean to construct a facility that would meet the evolving needs of the students. From my perspective as an interloper, they succeeded splendidly. Marquette has a building which is both striking and functional.
As we work hard on improving our own law school facility at Northwestern, it is always helpful to look at what other law schools have done. Thanks to Dean Kearney for the neat tour!
Intriguing venture by Arizona St. Law School.
Most commentary in the blogosphere looks at post-graduate experiments as bald-faced efforts to pad employment statistics. Makes more sense to me to look at these initiatives as creative efforts (albeit not always successful ones) to confront conditions of the job market and, moreover, to enhance professional training of new graduates. This is not to say that the ASU residency model is the answer, but kudos to the dean and the law school for thinking outside the box.
Smart article from the former dean of U. Baltimore. Haven’t met the dean, but admire his efforts on behalf of his law school.
Only quibble is with his juxtaposition of elite law schools, such as Northwestern, and the rest. He suggests that the latter must be focused on the needs of law students and emphasizing teaching and student services and the former need not be so student-focused. Elite law schools will, no doubt about it, pursue a mix of different objectives and strategies. But students come first at all law schools — at least that is the aspiration and mission of law schools who aspire to be innovative, responsive, and great.
Just two weeks ago we welcomed our new class of law students in our unique accelerated JD program. The only program of its kind among top schools in the U.S., the AJD provides an opportunity for thorough legal study in a concentrated format. This is neither a part-time program (to put it mildly!) nor a program run in any way peripheral to Northwestern Law School’s general JD program. AJD students take core law school courses, taught by regular faculty, and have myriad opportunities to pursue intracurricular and extracurricular projects, including law journals, clinics, advocacy programs, and so on.
Configured on an experimental basis just four years ago, we have reaffirmed our institutional commitment to this program through faculty action earlier this spring. The marketplace is telling us that this experiment is paying great dividends. AJD graduates, generally more experienced when they come in the door, are employed in a variety of legal and business settings. Employers find these students exceptionally well-prepared, mature, and focused.
I have spoken on this blog about the imperative of creative rethinking of the standard legal education model. The AJD program is one example among many of how we are practicing what we preach at Northwestern Law.
As this Crain’s article reports, we are giving serious consideration to adjusting our class size to meet the realities of the new legal economy. “Consideration” is not action, of course, and there is much reflection, data gathering, and dialogue to come. The larger issue underlying these discussions, of course, is the match — or, if you will, the mismatch — between law school functions and structures and the shifting terrain of the law and business worlds.
My friend, Dean Mike Schill at U. Chicago, is quoted in a way that suggests that he believes that all is completely well at his excellent law school. While he is as enthusiastic and bullish about the conditions of his fine law school as I am of mine, I am confident that Dean Schill understands that no law school — no matter its place in the grand pecking order of schools — is impervious to the changes in the legal economy. We ignore these changes at our peril.
Indeed, I would look at the subject at hand from a very different vantage point: It is precisely because we at Chicago and Northwestern (and other “elite” law schools) are so successful at placing our students in lucrative, important places in the hierarchy of jobs, that we have the special responsibility, and resources closer at hand than do others, to play a leadership role in concocting and implementing change.