Crossing Borders

Richmond Law expanding longtime commitment to international education

By Rob Walker

When the University of Richmond School of Law opened in 1870, one of its first three faculty members was assigned to teach “the positive law of nations, arising out of long-established conventional uses and actual treaties.” His primary texts were The Federalist Papers, and Emerich de Vattel’s influential treatise, The Law of Nations. In the decades since then, the law school has maintained that commitment to teaching international law.

Richmond Law attracts more international students
John Carroll

International students in 2011-12.

While students from the School of Law seek opportunities for study outside the United States, they are joined here in Richmond by a number of students from other nations.

In 2011–12, 16 international students were enrolled at Richmond Law, the largest number on record. (See chart above.)

The School of Law recruits in Canada each year, according to Michelle Rahman, associate dean for admissions. One of the Canadian students is a citizen of India, and another was born in Afghanistan. Others find Richmond through contacts at forums and meetings, through the International Exchange Program, and the Law School Admission Council.

Rahman said the Saudi students were drawn to Richmond by David Epstein, the George E. Allen Chair in Law, who knew most of them during his tenure on the faculty at the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University. They were at SMU for one-year master’s programs and decided to come to Richmond to pursue J.D. degrees. “I can only imagine how hard it must be to study law—a subject that emphasizes precision of language and a subject that reflects cultural values—in a second or third language in a foreign country,” Epstein said.

Richmond Law also welcomed seven exchange students in 2011–12 from Italy, France, England, and Sweden.

Entering the law school this fall will be three students from Saudi Arabia, three from Canada, and one each from Pakistan, China, and Russia, as well as five international exchange students.

Today more than ever law crosses borders. In fields as diverse as family law, bankruptcy, corporate practice, intellectual property, and environmental law, lawyers face challenges in the international arena. To meet that demand, students at Richmond Law study international and comparative law, working with faculty whose interests, scholarship, and experience include significant international components. And in growing numbers, they take advantage of opportunities for work and study overseas.

“Because of the nature of practice today and in the future,” said Dean Wendy Perdue, “the most sophisticated and successful lawyers in almost all areas will be those who can navigate effectively through international issues. The law today is truly international, and so are we.”

Richmond’s longstanding commitment to international law is evident in such pillars of the program as Richmond Journal of Global Law and Business and its annual symposium, and in the Cambridge summer program, which for more than 30 years has led students and faculty to Great Britain to examine the roots of American jurisprudence. Through internships, exchanges, conferences, and research, they have worked and studied from Hong Kong, China, and South Korea to Turkey, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany. And a promising new opportunity, beginning this summer, is a program in the West African nation of Ghana.

This fall, the law school will welcome Chiara Giorgetti and Andrew B. Spalding, whose scholarship, teaching, and experience will enhance the faculty’s existing strengths in international studies.

Giorgetti’s resume includes work and study in Europe, Kenya, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States. Spalding spent a year in Mumbai, India, as a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar. He has lectured at law and business schools in India, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

Their arrival coincides with the retirement of two venerable professors who have helped build the law school’s international studies program while helping establish its credentials around the world. Azizah al-Hibri, a widely recognized scholar in the study of Muslim jurisprudence, women’s rights, and Islam and democracy, and Daniel T. Murphy, director of international programs at the School of Law and a leader in the Cambridge program, both were honored with the designation “professor emeritus.”

“We need to continue to expand the curriculum” in international law, Murphy said. “The student interest is there, and clearly this will be important in almost any lawyer’s career.”

The Cambridge program, under the guidance of Murphy and Timothy L. Coggins, professor and associate dean for library and information services, has maintained its popularity and relevance for more than 30 years. The program draws about 45 students a year from the law school and other ABA-accredited law schools, as well as undergraduates from the University’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies. Cambridge faculty join Richmond Law professors in teaching courses in their distinctive styles, drawing students into an understanding of the common roots and divergent approaches of British and U.S. law.

Jeremy Lorenzo, L’13, is making his second trip to Cambridge this summer. “I was learning from international law professors at one of the most highly regarded universities in the world,” he said. “My experiences have inspired me to seek out more opportunities.” He also interned at Kaim Todner Solicitors in London through the London Clinical Placement Program headed by Professor Margaret Bacigal.

One intriguing new program will take four law students to Ghana this summer to explore externship possibilities in that relatively stable, democratic African nation. Professor Jonathan K. Stubbs, whose work at the law school includes international law and human rights, developed the pilot program along with Irene Odotei, president of the Historical Society of Ghana and director of the International Institute for the Advanced Study of Cultures in Ghana.

“Because Richmond has a strong international education mission along with an interest in promoting service learning,” Stubbs said, “we thought this would be a good opportunity.”

The Richmond students are to be in Ghana for five weeks. Their interests include human rights, family and domestic relations law, and the rights of women, as well as economic development in Ghana as it relates to the environment, and trade relations with major partners such as the United States and China.

Elsewhere, Richmond Law professors have established themselves as leaders in international education in a variety of fields.

Jim Gibson, professor and director of the Intellectual Property Institute, will teach international intellectual property this summer in the Cambridge program. “In today’s global economy, you don’t really know American IP law unless you also know how the international system works,” Gibson said.

Last September, the U.S. State Department sent Gibson to Bogota, Colombia, to discuss copyright law as part of a new free-trade agreement. And in September, the IP institute will host a symposium on “Global IP Enforcement” with speakers from major industry players including Microsoft, Google, and Viacom.

Professor Kristen J. Osenga also deals with intellectual property issues, including trademarks and patents. Her courses cover a range of topical issues such as distribution of AIDS medication and disputes over works of art taken during the Holocaust. Osenga also points out differences between U.S. patent law and that of other nations, and the need for effective enforcement mechanisms in countries such as China, where social and cultural norms differ from those of the United States.

Noah M. Sachs, director of the Robert R. Merhige Jr. Center for Environmental Studies, spoke in November at the Free University of Berlin about differences between European Union and U.S. approaches to toxic chemical regulation. Sachs has taught law, environment, and globalization at Cambridge, bringing in officials from TRAFFIC, a leading nongovernmental organization on the illegal wildlife trade, to discuss the trade in rhino horns and tiger bones in China and Malaysia. This fall, his international environmental law class will work with the World Resources Institute in Washington on equity issues in climate change negotiations.

“Our students need to understand the international dimension of environmental problems because law that affects the United States and U.S. companies is increasingly being made beyond our borders,” Sachs said.

Ronald J. Bacigal will offer a new course this fall in comparative criminal procedure, comparing U.S. criminal justice with that of selected countries in Asia and Europe. Bacigal also lectured in May at an international conference in Istanbul.

Ann C. Hodges serves as scientific adviser (the editorial board) for the new E-Journal of International and Comparative Labour Studies. The journal deals with increasingly global concerns, including comparative collective and individual labor issues, equality and discrimination, public policy and labor regulation, human resource management, and health and safety issues.

Hodges also has joined recently with the Union Internationale des Avocats, a French organization of international lawyers, on programs at the law school dealing with labor concerns and workplace privacy.

“Money crosses borders, and labor crosses borders,” Hodges said. “What law applies to American workers who go to do business in China? How should workers be treated in other countries who work for American companies?”

In 2009, Professor Joel Eisen went to China as Fulbright Professor of Law at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. Already an authority on energy, climate change, and environmental law, the experience enabled Eisen to develop expertise on China’s efforts to deal with concerns in these and other areas during this recent period of remarkable growth. He now teaches a course he developed on energy and environmental law in China.

Students and lawyers in the United States are surprised to find that even though China has serious environmental problems and an increasing appetite for energy, it also has a quickly developing, robust body of law, Eisen said. Part of his course focuses on the political, social, and legal challenges involved in developing the law “in a nation that has such a different conception from ours of the rule of law.”

“It is a legitimate task for a law school today to incorporate international law into the curriculum,” said Eisen, “and that is what we are doing here.”

Group photos
Top: Professor Jonathan Stubbs (far right) was part of a UNESCO delegation that met with Ghana’s president, John Evans Atta Mills (5th from right). Bottom: Law students at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge in 2008

Rob Walker is a Richmond-based writer and editor.