Transnational Law Program Recruits Students

Law School Pioneers Combined Degree Program
with European Partner Universities

Washington University Law’s Transnational Law Program (TLP), a unique four-year combined degree program offered in association with four prestigious European universities, is accepting applications for its first class of students.

Signing of a partnership agreement to offer TLP classes.

Washington University, Utrecht University, Queen’s University Belfast, University of Trento (Italy), and Catholic University of Portugal officially signed a partnership agreement earlier this spring and will begin offering TLP classes in fall 2008. Washington University will host the U.S. component of the combined J.D. and LL.M. degree program, and University College Utrecht in the Netherlands will host the European component.

Unlike traditional international dual degree programs, the TLP is the first to provide:

• a targeted, integrated curriculum developed with partner institutions;

• internships with U.S. and European corporations, law firms, courts, enforcement and administrative agencies, and non-governmental organizations;

• ongoing faculty exchanges among the participating schools; and

• related courses co-taught by partner and Washington University faculty.

The memoranda of understanding among the schools were officially signed after Washington University Law hosted a roundtable on “The Globalization of Law and the Future of Legal Education.” While the roundtable and ceremonial signing marked the end of two days of meetings with partner school representatives, the TLP, itself, is the culmination of several years of planning and builds upon the law school’s highly successful Summer Institute for Global Justice held in Utrecht. TLP representatives from various partner schools also attended planning meetings in both Utrecht and Trento earlier in the 2007-08 academic year.

“This roundtable marks the conclusion of nearly four years of work by five law faculties in the United States and Europe,” said Kent Syverud, Dean and the Ethan A.H. Shepley University Professor, who served as moderator. “The product of their work is a unique, new offering in international and comparative law, the Transnational Law Program.” 

Michael Peil, Assistant Dean for International Programs, added: “We envision that this will be a seamless, single educational experience overseen by a joint faculty advisory committee composed of each of the partner schools, developing new courses, new curricula, and new ways of teaching in order to better prepare our students for the transnational practice of law in an increasingly globalized legal profession.

 “We have spoken to law firms around the world about this program, and they have received it enthusiastically,” he added. “They look forward to employing our graduates from this program.”

Transnational Law Program

Adriaan Dorresteijn, Dean of Law and Governance at Utrecht University Law School, compared the study of international law and the study of law in a transnational context to the difference between learning a second language and being truly bilingual.

“If you study continental European law only and add on top of that a little of the common law system, you are not really on an equal footing of someone who understands both systems on an equal level, and that is what we plan to achieve with this program,” he said.

John Morison, former Dean and Professor of Jurisprudence at Queen’s University Belfast in Ireland, commented on the timeliness of the new program: “I feel as if I have joined a pioneering team … This is a very new form of legal education … It has the advantage of being developed by lawyers on the ground, not something the government or the European Commission has required us to do. We are responding in relation to our own understanding of how law has developed.”

Roberto Toniatti, Dean of the University of Trento Faculty of Law in Italy, spoke of the current period of transition around the world in legal education and the practice of law, where “the work of a lawyer has become more complex because the sources of law are becoming more complex.”

“Legal practice is already ahead of the law schools,” he said. “The time is now to catch up with the evolving times, but also to anticipate what law schools will do. I trust what we are doing now is late in front of the world practice, but is pioneering and anticipating what will become regarded as mainstream higher legal education, which is why I find this opportunity so important.”

Hans van Himbergen, Dean of University College Utrecht and a renowned physicist, stressed the logical fit of his college’s selective liberal arts program, characterized by an open and individualized curriculum, with the opportunity to host the TLP: “University College is about marrying practical and ideological purposes. It’s a fusion kitchen of a liberal arts education and, in this case, transnational law.”

Dorsey D. Ellis, Jr., the William R. Orthwein Distinguished Professor of Law, spoke of the natural evolution of Washington University being among the first to recognize the need for interstate law in the 19th century, to the increasingly international aspect of law school offerings into this century, to the next logical progression of a fully integrated program in transnational law. 

“We are ready for the next step, and that is to create an integrated educational experience that won’t simply be getting a J.D. here and an LL.M. in Europe, or visa versa, but rather will provide the student with a multi-legal ability, an ability to think in the law of both Europe and the United States,” he said. “If one can think in those two systems, then one has a handle on essentially every other legal system around the world because they are all based upon either the common law system or upon the civil law system reflected in Europe.

“We think it is time for a law school to prepare students to function in that environment with an integrated transnational legal education,” he continued. “We are the first law school to take that step. We have had wonderful cooperation and support from our European partners, and we are looking forward to a very successful program.”

Transnational Law Program

Syverud thanked members of the TLP’s advisory committee and coordinating councils, including from Washington University: Peil, Ellis, Professors Leila Sadat, Charles McManis, and Gerrit De Geest, and Associate Deans Janet Bolin and Michele Shoresman; from Utrecht University: Fried Keesen, Nikkie Meijers, and Michiel van de Kasteelen; from Queen’s University Belfast: Professor Gordon Anthony; and from University of Trento: Professor Elena Ioriatti. 

In addition to the roundtable and series of meetings, the law school also hosted a reception to introduce the TLP to first-year students. 

Washington University is accepting applications for the first class of TLP students through May 15. For more information, visit the TLP Web site.

[view] Photos of Transnational Law Program Signing
[view] Photos of Utrecht University