Much to my surprise and fascination, Peking University ("Bei Da") opened a School of Transnational Law in the Fall of 2008 that has a curriculum nearly identical to that of a U.S. juris doctor (JD) program and requires three years of study. Even more amazing is that the school is seeking ABA accreditation, the first law school outside of the U.S. to seek such accreditation. There is an excellent article on USC's US-China Institute Blog simply entitled China Legal (h/t China Law Blog) that provides a good overview of the program goals and development. I particularly enjoyed the following quote from the school's Dean, Jeffrey Lehman:
I find this particularly insightful, especially in light of articles like Business Taxes in China. Feels just Like Home from the China Law Blog, which recommend retaining an accountant who understands the tax laws in both your home country and the country where your business is located and adds that these people are few and far between. As the world gets smaller and business becomes more and more transnational, we're seeing an ever increasing need for not only multi-lingual attorneys but also attorneys who are fluent in multi-legalese. Peking University's School of Transnational Law is a large step in that direction.
Anyone following the development of China readily knows that its modern legal system is very young but evolving rapidly. A common problem I recall from China is finding a PRC attorney who has the analytical and advocacy skills that are the staple of American legal training and practice. By introducing the curriculum of a US law school to Chinese students at the School of Transnational Law, it will greatly increase the caliber of attorneys in China.
Even if the school never gets accreditation from the ABA, I have no doubt it will make a huge contribution to the educational and legal system in China. I've commented in the past that the evolving legal system and culture in China is not only generating more business opportunities but is also changing how the Chinese perceive themselves as individuals within the Chinese legal system.
I've written a series of posts entitled A Reason to Have Faith in China's Legal System that comment on the development of grass-roots legal oragnizations that enforce the employment/contractual rights of migrant workers. Dean Lehman has stated that the curriculum of the Transnational Law School spans the entire spectrum of the legal practice, including but not limited to international business. As an example, he said Mark Rosenbaum of ACLU fame will be teaching about public interest advocacy next fall. In a country where we're already beginning to see grass-roots organizations forming such as those mentioned above, I can't wait to see how the students respond to someone like Mr. Rosenbaum! China's young lawyers are China's future and the Transnational Law School is a very exciting contribution to that future. I think it's AWESOME. I honestly can't think of any other way to describe it. Simply AWESOME.