The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute enhances the intellectual vibrancy of Washington University School of Law and the University, provides advice and assistance to other University departments and transnational components of the Law School, and fosters collaboration among colleagues at home and abroad who are engaged in international or comparative work.  The Institute engages in a wide variety of programs and projects  by drawing on a vast pool of international and national expertise to foster collaboration, continuous dialogue and exchange of ideas among scholars, business and government leaders, members of civil society and practitioners engaged in international or comparative law work.

With a focus on developing innovative global solutions to real-life problems, the Institute has sponsored more than 125 speakers and held or co-sponsored more than 30 major international conferences since it opened.  It also provides future lawyers opportunities  to engage in valuable research and practical experience, including through programs like the Dagen-Legomsky Fellowships, the Crimes Against Humanity Research Project, the ICC Legal Tools Project, and the Research Project on the Gun Violence Epidemic in the United States.

The Institute’s blog, Lex Lata, Lex Ferenda, offers commentary on current international and comparative law and global affairs issues written by Washington University faculty, alumni, and students as well as guest contributors.

History of the Institute

The Institute officially opened its doors in November 2000 as the Washington University School of Law “Institute for Global Legal Studies.” Stephen H. Legomsky, the John S. Lehmann University Professor and former Chief Counsel of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, served as its first director, and was succeeded by John O. Haley, the Wiley B. Rutledge Professor of Law in 2002.

In February 2002, the Institute was renamed to the “Harris Institute for Global Legal Studies” in honor and recognition of Whitney R. Harris’ lifelong achievements in the field of international justice, and his support of legal education and research.

©2010 Andres R. Alonso / WUSTL.

In Fall 2007, Leila Nadya Sadat, the James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law, was named the Institute’s third director and launched in 2008, a ground-breaking project to write the world’s first global treaty on crimes against humanity. Professor Sadat also began the Initiative on Gun Violence and Human Rights, the International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution Symposium, the International Humanitarian Law Roundtable, in conjunction with partners around the country, and the Ambassadors-in-Residence program, bringing the real life experience of leading diplomats directly into the classroom experience.

In July 2021, John N. Drobak, the George Alexander Madill Professor of Real Property & Equity Jurisprudence; Professor of Economics was named the Director of the Institute.

The work of the Institute is guided by an active Faculty Advisory Board and an International Council that is comprised of respected statesmen, international jurists, and distinguished scholars. The Institute’s work is also funded by the generous donations of our financial supporters and institutional and strategic partners.

Whitney R. Harris (1912 –2010)

Whitney R. Harris

The namesake of the Institute, Whitney R. Harris, served as a trial counsel prosecuting the major German war criminals before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, from August 1945 to the conclusion of the trial on October 1, 1946.  Mr. Harris kept the Nuremberg dream alive through his writings and his advocacy, and later through his philanthropic generosity.  In 2001, he endowed the Institute for Global Legal Studies at the Washington University School of Law.  In 2008 he and Anna Harris endowed the Institute’s “World Peace Through Law Award” at a ceremony during which the Harris Institute’s name was changed to the “Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute” the name it bears today. He was the last surviving prosecutor on Justice Robert Jackson’s team.

A great friend of the law school, Mr. Harris was a firm supporter of efforts to promote the rule of law. He was also the author of numerous articles and books, including his first-hand account of the Nazi war trials, Tyranny on Trial.

Whitney Harris passed away on April 22, 2010.  He was 97.  He is survived by his wife, Anna Harris, also a longtime friend and supporter of the law school and the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute, as well as family, friends, and colleagues.  A memorial service for Mr. Harris was held on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at Washington University in St. Louis, Danforth Campus in Graham Chapel.