About TLB

  • Philip Jessup proposed the idea of a transnational law course. His vision of the subject was broad, including public and private international law; state and non-state actors; business, administrative, and political affairs; as well as negotiation and litigation. Inspired by his idea, TLB is only constrained by its pursuit to address all law transcending national frontiers.

« The UC Hastings Symposium About The War on Terror | Main | North Korean Nukes: Is the UN Obsolete or Worse? »

October 09, 2006

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451c58f69e200d834baf06953ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Should You Pursue an International Law Career?:

Comments

David A Carnes

"...no one knows where they'll end up or how they ended up where they are. Take a bearing, set a course, and let the adventure begin."

Words of wisdom. I would never have imagined that I'd be where I am today. I took the "wrong" path (went overseas directly out of law school), suffered the consequences (I'll never work as a lawyer in the USA); I am not making nearly as much money as I would have been making staying home in Kentucky defending DUIs...and life is good.

I have had a fascinating (although hardly lucrative) career, and I find myself the object of resentful envy of people back home who make five times as much as I do.

My advice to law students came from my head, but from my heart all I can say is: follow your heart; don't live for a resume. Life is not lived on paper.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

'The international attorney is a master at comparative law and is able to research the applicable laws in multiple countries that will apply to a single transaction.'--I'll take this to be a normative desideratum, not a description, inasmuch as as those involved in international law (some are both scholars and practitioners) seem to have very little knowledge of 'comparative law.' In response to the decision at PrawfsBlawg not to include comparative law among the subjects for their 'research canons' project, I wrote: 'Still, no "comparative law"? Other legal traditions of the world unimportant? Legal systems of Asia and Africa irrelevant? No significant differences between Romanistic, Germanic, Anglo-American, and Nordic Legal Families? Religious law (e.g., [Islamic] fiqh) not worth our attention? This leaves us open to the reasonable criticism that we are rather parochial and provincial, still unduly local in the era of globalization. In short, this is a glaring, serious, and debilitating omission.' Randall Peerenboom is an example of that rare scholar and practitioner who actually has some knowledge of the indigenous legal systems in the country he specializes in, namely China. There does not seem to be any educational requirement or legal training to the effect that assures one who is proficient in international law is also proficient in comparative law. An example of a good overview and introductory text in this regard is Werner Menski's Comparative Law in a Global Context: The Legal Traditions of Asia and Africa (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed., 2006).

Travis Hodgkins

Mr. Carnes--

As you can imagine, this entire subject weighs heavily on my mind since I'm in the midst of making the very decisions that you have already made. Thus, I can't begin to express to you how grateful I am for your advice and insights. I have taken the liberty of making public my thoughts about your advice because I have no doubt there are other students trying to make the same decisions.

Thank you for saying, "[F]ollow your heart; don't live for a resume. Life is not lived on paper." Far too often I think people come to law school to make the "big bucks" and loose sight of the fact that the knowledge and skills we acquire here in this particular ivory tower can permit us to live an extraordinary life.

Duoxie.

--Travis

Travis Hodgkins

Mr. O'Donnell--

I appreciate all of your comments on TLB! I also appreciate you pointing out how loosely I used the term "comparative law" in my post.

A foreign attorney in China, which is what I had in mind when I wrote that, does engage in a form of comparative law since he/she has to be familiar with the ever evolving legal system in the PRC. However, the practicing attorney is obviously not going to be a scholar in comparative law (even though folks like Steve Dickinson at China Law Blog probably are considered or should be considered scholars in this field).

--Travis

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Travis,

I understand. I don't think I intended to suggest otherwise about a 'foreign attorney in China,' as I would agree that he/she is engaging in a form of comparative law as described. I just wanted to respond in regards to the quote, in which reference is made to an attorney being a '*master* at comparative law and is able to research the applicable laws in *multiple countries* that will apply to a single transaction.' [emphasis added] I take your point about the difference between a practitioner and a scholar.... Several of the bloggers at Opinio Juris, for instance, are both scholars and practitioners, but I've noticed, with a couple of exceptions, little evidence of facility with comparative law. In other words, it seems there's international law and domestic law, the latter frequently in sole reference to such law in a few European states and U.S. municipal law. There does not seem to be a real understanding, let alone appreciation, of other, indigenous legal systems.

Travis Hodgkins

Mr. O'Donnell--

Thank you for clarifying and I hope to return the favor now. I am not certain what you mean by "a real understanding...of other, indigenous legal systems." First, I doubt that there are any truly autochthonic legal systems; it is probably best to describe a system of law as being heterochthonic. For instance, the USA system of law is derived from English common law and China's modern system of law is derived from German civil law. Attempting to discover an untainted, truly original form of law would be an attempt to discover the progenitor of all law and that would undoubtedly lead to a digression in either theology or philosophy (or possibly even solipsism). All attorneys have an appreciation for and an understanding of the law's origin, including the legal systems of other countries.

The international attorney IS a master of comparative law and is able to research the applicable laws in multiple countries that will apply to a single transaction. Until you've sat down as an American attorney and tried to initiate an IPO in Hong Kong for a Chinese company with backers and assets in Canada, you can't really appreciate the international attorneys job, contending with a vast array of laws from multiple countries as well as common, public, and private international law. This is just one example and it's not an extreme example. There is a huge difference between writing a book about a country's legal system and being able to utilize a country's legal system in combination with the laws from other countries.

Moreover, it's an affront to every attorney-- particularly, international attorneys-- to say that they do not have any appreciation for comparative law. Granted, there is a distinction between domestic law and the many forms of international law, but that doesn't support the inference that American attorneys lack an understanding of or an appreciation for the legal systems of other nations. All of the attorneys (and law students) that I know have spent a good deal of time learning about the legal systems of other countries. Obviously, some will devote more time than others but, in the end, it's inescapable. As I stated before, legal systems are dynamic and influenced by the legal events in other countries, and practitioners and scholars are continually looking to other countries for inspiration and guidance. You also have to keep in mind that attorneys are specialists, and one area of law will require an attorney to know about another country's system of law more than some other area of the law-- in this sense the law is provincial because it's practical! When you get a divorce, do you really care if your attorney knows what the divorce laws are Mexico?!

Attorneys that are practicing in foreign countries have devoted a great amount of energy and time to the understanding of at least two systems of law. Those that practice in China-- which I keep referencing because that's what I am familiar with-- know the legal system in China and probably have a different (if not greater and more realistic) appreciation for the system's nuances than some academic who wrote a book on the subject. However, that's not to say that practicing foreign attorneys do not read the books written by the academics, but you have to keep in mind that the academic was undoubtedly consulting a practitioner.

Part of our legal education is the attainment of research skills, and these skills apply to comparative law as much as they do to any other field of law. The only parochial element of the law is the training, which is tucked away in the academy and kept from those unwilling or unable to jump through the necessary hoops, and this is something I would like to see eradicated someday, but that is a different subject.

--Travis

Patrick S. O'Donnell

By 'indigenous,' I was not meaning to refer to some 'essentialist' legal system (hence 'truly autochthonic') bereft of influence from other legal traditions. I was rather using it more liberally, as is the case when one referes to indigenous peoples, evidence for which may not be definitive, thus serving as a term of art or shorthand.

I would in fact fault academics more than practitioners....

It is simply not the case that many scholars or practitiones are familiar with, for example, Islamic law, as that is an oft-heard complaint from within the legal community itself. Same would go for American Indian Law, Law in Hinduism, African laws, etc. Always exceptions to the generalization, but the generalization holds nonetheless.

Your reply strikes me as overwrought

Re: 'Moreover, it's an affront to every attorney--particularly, international attorneys--to say that they do not have any appreciation for comparative law.'

That is not an accurate rendering of what I in fact said: please re-read what I in fact said.

Re: 'There is a huge difference between writing a book about a country's legal system and being able to utilize a country's legal system in combination with the laws from other countries.'

Nothing I said stated or suggested otherwise.

Re: 'attorneys are specialists, and one area of law will require an attorney to know about another country's system of law more than some other area of the law--in this sense the law is provincial because it's practical!'

This is rather condescending. Having contributed for about a month now to the 'research canons' project at PrawfsBlawg which is categorized largely by the principal areas of specialization in the law, I'm keenly aware of this fact and was not something I was quibbling with in the least.

The comments to this entry are closed.