A Global Law School
Professor Bill Alford '77, director of the East Asian Legal Studies Program, was recently named associate dean for the Graduate Program and International Legal Studies.
Why is international law important?
You have said that Harvard Law School is uniquely situated among American law schools to be a leader in international law. Why? How?
HLS has always been the leader in internationalizing American legal education. If you go back and look at the law school's course catalog of the 1830s, you will see that the law of nations, "lex mercatoria" [the law of merchants] and admiralty law were required courses from the school's early days. And if you look at the courses Harvard introduced into the American law school curriculum--such as international business transactions, international organizations and East Asian law--no other institution comes close.
We're situated uniquely because strong U.S. law schools of significantly smaller size simply don't have the scale to have the vast array of internationally focused research programs that we do. They may have two or, in a rare year, three students in their LL.M. program from any single foreign country, whereas we can have as many as 15 from any single jurisdiction, not to mention students in other degree programs and visiting scholars. They may have one or two research programs that have international focus, but they can't have the vast array of such programs and the steady stream of fascinating foreign visitors we do.
How do we get the J.D. students to take courses in, and be exposed to, international law?
The faculty, as part of the Strategic Plan, did vote to add to our list of strongly recommended courses, [a course] in the area of international law. We are also contemplating, although it won't occur immediately, developing a course that would provide a general [international] overview for students who aren't necessarily into being specialists. It would be something of an analog to a basic corporations or basic constitutional law course.
Is there much interaction between the J.D. and LL.M. students?
What sort of international scholarship is the faculty conducting?
These are all faculty members who were not hired initially as internationalists, but whose deep and significant engagement in the international arena has greatly enriched both them and our school's teaching and research. I see this very much as the wave of the future and as extraordinarily exciting. I hope we can marshal the resources needed to support not only this work and that of our international law specialists, but also that of colleagues who may be at an earlier stage of cultivating their international interests.
Are there opportunities for students to work with faculty on international issues?
Fast-forward five years from now. What has changed?
Well, we hope to further integrate the international component into the heart of our institution. Fortunately, much of this is happening naturally, and it is the right time to be internationally engaged. Again, that echoes our history. Harvard faculty have been going abroad to teach and provide public service, and to do research for well over a century. I am doing a paper now, for example, on Roscoe Pound's adventures in China. After 20 long, contentious years as dean, looking for a peaceful resting place, he went to China in the midst of its civil war to be an adviser on law reform and legal education to the Guomindang government. He spent three years crawling around prisons and visiting courts, writing a number of fascinating articles. So there is a good precedent on which we can build.
How is legal practice changing around the world?
The legal professions of many countries are undergoing massive change. We are really at an epochal moment histori-cally in terms of the development of the legal profession. You can see this in Japan, where the Japanese government has been in the midst of a massive reconsideration of the structure of the Japanese legal profession and of the nature of legal education in Japan. Leading Japanese universities-- including Tokyo University and Waseda University--have begun to establish what they describe as American-style law schools. This is a massive change. And the foreign model to which they have looked far more than any other has been Harvard Law School. Interestingly, one of our graduates, Yukio Yanagida [LL.M. '66], has been at the forefront of proposing these ideas.