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MJ Durkee

William Gardiner Hammond Professor of Law

Melissa J. (“MJ”) Durkee is an expert in international law with a focus on international legal theory and specialties in business, environment, and governance. Professor Durkee’s scholarship has appeared in the Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, Virginia Law Review, American Journal of International Law, and other prominent peer-reviewed and student-edited publications. Her volume, States, Firms, And Their Legal Fictions was recently published by Cambridge University Press. She serves on the Board of Editors of the American Journal of International Law.

Professor Durkee investigates the public-private interactions that produce and interpret international legal norms and considers how legal and institutional design choices affect processes of international cooperation. She has written on international lobbying, interpretative entrepreneurship by business actors, covert or “astroturf” lobbying, and business contributions to treaty development, treaty enforcement, international space law, and climate law. She develops proposals about how international organizations can productively engage with business actors. Durkee theorizes changing relationships between government and private actors at the international level, new methods of ordering, and the shifting public-private divide.

Durkee chairs the International Legal Theory Interest Group of the American Society of International Law and has previously served on the Society’s Executive Committee, among other leadership posts. She recently co-chaired the centennial conference for the American Branch of the International Law Association and has served as supervising editor for the peer-reviewed AJIL Unbound. She frequently serves as a referee for peer-reviewed journals, and has delivered lectures and presentations around the world.

Prior to her arrival at the Washington University School of Law in 2023, Professor Durkee was Allen Post Professor and Associate Dean for International Programs at the University of Georgia School of Law, where she also directed the Dean Rusk International Law Center. She began her academic career at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle where she was presented awards for her scholarship and support of student journals.

Professor Durkee received her law degree from Yale Law School, where she served on the Yale Law Journal and the Yale Journal of International Law. She also studied in Chile and served as a teaching fellow in the Yale University philosophy department. She obtained her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Westmont College, where she earned highest departmental honors in each of her majors and spent an exchange year at the University of Oxford. After law school, Professor Durkee was a judicial clerk for Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and for Judge Sidney H. Stein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Professor Durkee practiced law in New York with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, where she specialized in international litigation and arbitration. She then served as an Associate-in-Law at Columbia Law School.

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