All Roads Lead to Rome

In the sun-baked city of Rome, where the colossal ruins of the Forum speak of ancient civil law, a unique group met from June 11 to 14 for a distinctly contemporary dialogue on the globalization of legal practice and the future of Harvard as a world law school.

This group of more than 450 international lawyers, jurists, business leaders, government officials, academics, and special guests—predominantly graduates of Harvard’s LL.M., J.D., and S.J.D. programs—traveled from 41 countries to attend the first-ever Worldwide Alumni Congress. It featured the first annual HLSA meeting in the association’s 113-year history to take place outside the United States.

groupDean Clark called the Worldwide Congress "a historic moment in the life of Harvard Law School"—for its international venue, the global diversity of its attendees, the election of the first non-American HLSA president, and for the "resounding statement" the congress made overall about the School’s imperative "to renew and deepen its commitment to internationalization."

Hundreds of graduates swept into Rome on the eve of the congress. Some had traveled enormous distances; all were burdened with luggage but lightened by sudden sightings of familiar faces. For the next four days, congress delegates would catch up with old friends, make new connections, attend academic sessions and HLSA meetings, converse with the Dean and faculty, and enjoy the splendor of Rome.

On June 11, introduced in Italian by HLSA President Charles Brock ’67, Dean Clark opened the congress by defining the global forces influencing legal education and practice, including the continuing spread of the rule of law worldwide and increase in cross-border activity of all kinds. He reflected on Harvard’s longtime leadership in international legal education, but emphasized that the School "has far to go to truly call itself a world law school." Said the Dean: "Twenty-five years from now the School will be a very different place—much more international in its composition, its faculty members, in the subject matter taught in courses, the ideas debated, the knowledge explored, and in the intellectual output of the faculty. We are, after all, part of one world, and should orient our thinking about the law in that context."

SceneryAn early event that struck many relevant themes was a fast-paced panel discussion on international legal practice that asked: "Is America the Model for the World?" Moderated by HLS Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter ’85, director of the Graduate Program, panel members Yukio Yanagida LL.M. ’66 of Tokyo, Jacques Salès LL.M. ’67 of Paris, John F. Cogan, Jr. ’52 of Boston, and Professors William Alford ’77 and Frank Vogel explored the problems and benefits of adopting the American model of lawyering. They also talked about tough challenges facing international lawyers, from cultural differences to varied ethical and professional standards to new global competition from accounting and financial services firms. Members of the alumni audience frequently weighed in with their opinions.

The panel also discussed Harvard’s role in training the next generation of American and foreign law students. "How should we prepare our students to practice in a variety of global environments?" asked Slaughter. "The proposition I put to the panel is that we are in fact not adequately doing this at the moment. We should reform our curriculum to include more comparative law, economics, business training, and other courses designed to reach out to different disciplines not only to prepare our students to be the best lawyers they can be, but also to be lawyers in a global economy."

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