From the Dean

Asian Journeys

Dean Kagan

As East Asia takes center stage in world affairs, it seems like the right time to dedicate an issue of the Bulletin to exploring the law school’s many connections to this pivotal region—connections that range from faculty members producing groundbreaking scholarship to alumni assuming leadership roles in politics, law and business.

Of course, HLS is no newcomer to the international arena. The law school’s East Asian Legal Studies program began in the 1960s. Since then, EALS, now under the distinguished leadership of Professor William Alford ’77, has evolved into the nation’s most comprehensive program for the study of East Asian law and legal history. As many of you know, Bill is one of the world’s leading scholars of Chinese law, and in these pages he gives an expert’s view on why the rapid transformation of the legal system in China—home to almost one-quarter of the human race—should matter to us all.

Legal institutions in Japan are also in flux, with globalization and shifting economic cycles giving rise to corporate legal structures increasingly like ours. Professor J. Mark Ramseyer ’82, an extraordinary scholar who grew up in Japan and now directs our Japanese Legal Studies program, shares his perspective on why a country that once felt scant need for legal counsel is moving toward a culture favoring “New York-style mega firms.” It’s a thought-provoking story and one I think you’ll enjoy.

Given the pace of change in Asia, it’s not surprising that when we take a look at the lives of our Asian alumni—something I had a chance to do firsthand on a trip to East Asia earlier this year—we find them playing transformative roles. Among the alums I was honored to meet was the first woman appellate judge in Korea (a country where—judging by the turnout at our visit—our alumni are exceptionally enthusiastic and loyal). I also learned more about the rising fortunes of two very different Taiwanese leaders—the country’s vice president and the mayor of Taipei—both HLS alumni, both possible presidential candidates in 2008. When we speak of Harvard being an “international” law school, this is precisely what we mean.

One focal point of change in Asia—as elsewhere—is the evolution of the Internet. Content censorship by some Asian governments has raised concern at the school’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, with scholars documenting state-sponsored Internet filtering in China, Burma, and elsewhere—a complex and important matter discussed later in this issue.

A bit farther west, in Nepal, lawyers risked their lives this spring to restore the rule of law. Here you will find the riveting story of one of our students, who watched the events unfold in his native Kathmandu while working on a plan for a negotiated settlement of Nepal’s decade-long civil unrest.

Meanwhile, even as we turn our focus outward, incredible work continues right here in Cambridge—innovative approaches to teaching (such as Professor Carol Steiker’s use of role-playing in her capital punishment course) and major new initiatives designed to help students explore legal practice (such as our new Child Advocacy Program), both of which are spotlighted in this Bulletin. We also pay tribute to David Herwitz ’49, Frank Sander ’52 and David Shapiro ’57—three superb teachers and scholars who recently retired.

I hope that you enjoy this issue’s rich mix of stories—and come away with an increased awareness of the law school’s engagement with the larger world. And whether you’re reading this in Cambridge, Asia or someplace in between, please know that you’re an integral part of the HLS community.

Dean Elena Kagan '86


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