Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Internationalizing the Law School Curriculum: On the Importance of Combining Law and International Relations

Internationalizing the Law School’s Mission: Expanding the Law School’s Role to Include an International Affairs Curriculum.

Increasingly in the 21st century, law schools in the United States have come to understand that their obligation to provide an education to its students that reflects current needs for research, teaching and service now require them to explore fields of instruction that would have been essentially unknown even a generation ago. As new and important fields arise, fields touching on the production and application of knowledge with tremendous effect on society, it is the duty of the University to respond. The growing importance of globalization has had an enormous effect on law making and law practice. Law is no longer confined to a state or even a nation, but now embraces institutions at the international level and transactions that routinely cross borders.

In response to these rapid developments, law schools have begun to consider the value of establishing schools or departments of international transactions or international affairs (a “DIA”). These new departments would enrich the legal curriculum by offering courses of instruction designed to prepare individuals for positions of leadership in organizations that will bring global solutions to global problems. In some cases, law schools might even consider creating an integrated but freestanding degree-granting department. Recipients of post graduate degrees in international affairs or international; transactions would be prepared to become highly effective participants in the formulation, analysis, advocacy, implementation and monitoring of policy in governmental or private organizations. The purpose of this essay is to sketch the outlines of what such a program might look like.


DIA will be most effective if it can avoid two great pitfalls. The first centers on the creation of a unit of graduate study that did little more than duplicate or focus substantive study in fields already offering graduate degrees at the university. DIA must do more than merely focus the substantive study offered elsewhere. The second centers on its affiliation with a law school. DIA must do more than merely serve as a basis for a focused legal postgraduate degree – a dressed up LL.M. To differentiate DIA, that is to justify its creation, DIA must offer something different from anything offered at the other units of the University. For that purpose, DIA must advance a new and distinct mode of analysis. That analysis provides the basis for transforming the substantive knowledge from the other academic units of the University into policy, and from policy into action.

DIA will create an environment in which to focus on all aspects of challenges that transcend national boundaries. Today, these challenges can be global, regional or bi-lateral. Challenges touch on all aspects of human interaction; they can range from migration, to communicable diseases, to trade barriers, to corruption, to access to education, food and economic opportunity. Actors meeting those challenges are no longer just governmental; policy is now an integral part of the operation of a great constellation of non-governmental actors, ranging from organizations formed to further specific policy goals, to global religious organizations, to large multi-national corporations. In a way unique among schools in the IA field, DIA will focus on IA policy actors, actual current policy issues, the language and recognized approaches to contemporary policy analysis and the methodologies of implementation and monitoring of policy ‘as applied.’

Based on this focus on the policy actors, contemporary policy problems, forms of policy analysis and methodologies of implementation of solutions to problems with global effect, DIA will offer a course of study the principal aim of which is to provide its students with comprehensive and rigorous training sufficient to enable them to function effectively in international affairs, from the conceptualization and formulation of policy, to its implementation and monitoring. To that end, the DIA curriculum will be built upon the realities of the actual ‘business’ of international affairs in the contemporary world. That focus can be divided into four areas of study: actors, policy, tools and realization.

Actors: international affairs are not conducted in a vacuum. Since 1945, the business of international affairs has been institutionalized within a complex matrix of public and private institutions. The number of forms of public institutions has expanded significantly in the last century. Global political organization has moved from a loose set of interactions among nation-state to systems of national interdependence in which a number of new forms of other public international actors play increasingly important roles. These new actors range from loose global associations, centered on the United Nations, to overlapping bi-lateral and regional systems of economic, human rights and criminal regulation. But the greatest change in governance since 1945 has occurred in the private sector. The end of the 20th century has witnessed the institutionalization of what is now recognized as international civil society. This is made up of countless groups organized in a variety of different ways to further all forms of policy objectives. These groups now play an increasingly important role in shaping policy. They play an even more important role in monitoring the implementation of policy. Thus, a basic understanding of the actors involved in the discourse of issues that require multi-national responses is essential for individuals involved in international affairs.

Policy: International affairs are expressed in policy terms. Policy expresses the substance of international affairs. Policy is an elastic concept embracing laws, rules, actions, plans and behaviors, as well as their social and legislative ramifications. It can be expressed as the things public entities choose to do (e.g., to build a dam to generate power) or not do (e.g., not to build a dam to preserve the environment). It can also be understood as a product of the collective effect of the conscious choices of private entities (e.g., to standardize scientific terminology). And it can include rules or understandings resulting from the action or lack of action of individual private actors (e.g., standardization of letters of credit). Policy is given life through the actions of actors through which it is formulated, implemented, and monitored. It is the language of substantive discourse of actors in the international affairs field.

Tools: Policy does not appear unbidden. Policy does not sell itself to actors in international the public and private spheres of institutional society. Policy must be conceived, formulated, explained, justified, defended and advanced. Each of these functions requires certain analytic tools. These tools are drawn from a variety of disciplines: economics, sociology, politics, philosophy, psychology, mathematics, linguistics, quantitative analysis and empirical methods (e.g., econometrics), law, and business. Each provides a means of systematically evaluating alternative means of conceiving, developing, and achieving social goals. These tools supply a common language for policy choices among actors; they supply a mechanics for valuing choices among policy options. An ability to understand and use analytic tools is essential to the development of policy and the steering of policy to implementation.

Realization: The object of policy is implementation. Policies unrealized are goals unrealized and good undone. Taking policy from conceptualization to adoption represents one of the great tasks and serves as one of the great rewards of policy actors. Realization of policy does not happen by itself. It requires navigating complex, multi-state and multi-level systems of governance. It may require action among private actors as well as more formal action in the public sphere. There are systems, and systematic approaches, to policy realization. It requires an understanding of systems and politics, of law and psychology. Moreover, approaches to implementation may differ substantially from approaches to monitoring implemented policy, or seeking policy change. Approaches will also differ depending on the place of the actor within the systems of public and private actors involved in policy decision-making. A critical understanding of these complexities is essential to those who intend to further policy objectives.


The rationale and objectives of a school of international affairs, as outlined above, provides a basis for developing a vision statement for such an enterprise. A vision statement for a school of international affairs could read something like this:

• DIA will be a leading institution for defining and strengthening the field of international affairs (IA) in the academic community worldwide.

• DIA will craft a uniquely focused program which will help define what the outstanding IA program should look like and strive to be ranked as one of the best (if not the best) programs across the IA field.

• To that end, the initial connection between DIA and the law school will provide the foundation for the implementation of DIA’s unique mission.

• DIA will be known for conducting boundary-pushing, multi- and interdisciplinary research focused on the integration of the key constructs of international or cross border affairs—key public and private institutional actors developing, advocating, implementing and monitoring policy—that crosses disciplinary boundaries and links theory with application.

• DIA will be a community of scholars who will provide a climate for unique learning in and outside of the classroom and through which DIA will help mold the IA leaders for this century.


The School of International Affairs will prepare individuals for positions of leadership in organizations that will bring global solutions to global problems. As a top IA program, DIA will seek to improve the lives of people through high quality teaching and learning, internationally recognized research and outreach, and associations with leading IA global institutions. DIA degree holders will be prepared to become highly effective participants in the formulation, analysis, advocacy, implementation and monitoring of policy in governmental or private organizations. DIA will offer a rigorous program of professional education founded on a multi-disciplinary approach to the training of its students. DIA will integrate the great strengths of any research university in the liberal arts, sciences, engineering, business, information technology, communications and law to train students in the application of theory and substantive analysis to practical issues in international affairs. To that end, DIA will serve as the academic unit where the knowledge derived from the substantive fields of study at a research university is cast into policy terms, transformed into rules, and applied by institutional and other actors into action that directly affect the lives of people and institutions.

DIA will emphasize the following:

• DIA will be an asset for the region by serving as a center of expertise in an increasingly important area for the production of knowledge;

• DIA will enable and foster interdisciplinary collaboration in international affairs, focusing on policy, analysis and application across the University;

• DIA will build an organization that insists on respect for individual and intellectual diversity that defines the interdisciplinary vision demands from DIA’s faculty, staff, and students;

• DIA will create a broad based set of curricula that shares a commitment to the global perspectives of education, drawing especially upon existing strengths and curricular elements already in place in the School of Law and across the wider university;

• DIA will encourage the expansion of our faculty research and presence through international involvement including conferences, joint research projects, and sabbatical placements;

• DIA will encourage active and collaborative learning through the use of on-line and in-class technologies as well as cutting-edge pedagogies such as problem-based learning models of teaching and learning;

• DIA will enable partnerships with business, industry, government, and other educational institutions; and

• DIA will use information technology to increase accessibility to the IA curricula across the university and around the world through programs of sharing alone and in partnership with other related academic enterprises.


The core curriculum should reflect this understanding of the framework for international affairs. On this basis a core curriculum will be created consisting of the following year long courses as the foundation of any program of study in DIA. Each course described below would likely be a new course.

1. Introduction to Actors in Institutional Affairs (2 semesters). This course is designed to introduce students to the principal actors in international affairs as well as to the frameworks within which they operate. The first semester should be devoted to a study of public actors: the nation state and its subordinate divisions (e.g., U.S. states, German Lander); transnational and regional associations (e.g., NAFTA, MEROSUR, EU); international organizations (UN); and other international or transnational actors (e.g., WTO, ICC). The second semester should focus on a study of private actors, and the construction and operation of global civil society, including public/private cooperative arrangements (e.g., OEDC), institutionalized non-governmental organizations (e.g., Amnesty International) and other expressions of collective civil society. The objective of this course is to provide the student with a comprehensive understanding of the principal actors involved in the production and consumption of policy. The focus in this course will be on law and political science, with additional contributions from other disciplines.

2. Introduction to Current Policy Challenges (2 semesters). Provide the students with a comprehensive introduction to those areas of policy that form the basis of the current discussion within international affairs. This course is the most flexible and interdisciplinary of the core curriculum. This should be designed as a ‘topics’ course, with the topics changing from time to time to reflect the most significant policy issues of the day. Initially we might focus on the Copenhagen Consensus international policy challenges: (1) climate change; (2) communicable diseases; (3) conflicts and arms proliferation; (4) access to education; (5) financial instability; (6) governance and corruption; (7) malnutrition and hunger; (8) migration; (9) sanitation and access to clean water; and (10) subsidies and trade barriers. But there are a number of other choices available. By the end of this course, the student should have a working knowledge of all of the most important contemporary areas of policy activity.

3. Analytical Methods (2 semesters). Provide the student with the tools to conceptualize, formulate, analyze, adopt, implement, and monitor policy through rigorous application of recognized modes of analysis. One semester should be devoted to qualitative methods. These may include theories of bargaining and negotiation, game theory, decision analysis and methodologies for making choices where the analysis must account for complexity and uncertainty. The other semester should be devoted to an introduction to quantitative analysis and empirical methods. These may include basic statistical methods, econometrics, experimental design and data analysis. The purpose of the course is not to achieve mastery but to provide the foundations for more advanced work in upper level courses offered in the second year.

4. Implementation (1 semester). The basic purpose of this course is to prepare students to become effective leaders in any organization involved in international affairs. The students will be introduced to organization theory, systems theory, sociology and organizational psychology, as well as the legal framework of organizational functioning. Through readings and problems or case studies, students will learn to understand formal and informal structures of organizations and to navigate within it to further policy objectives and to anticipate reactions and consequences of actions both within and outside organizational structure. To a great extent, this is course should be conceived as a practicum: how to get things done.

5. Economic Analysis (1 semester). In addition to the four basic courses, the core curriculum might also include an introduction to economic theories. The emphasis should be on contemporary microeconomic theory. But substantial time should be devoted to introducing students to alternative theories of economic relationships. Since much policy difference can be ascribed to the embrace of fundamentally different and incompatible assumptions about economic behavior, knowledge of these differences will be critical for developing analytical skills.

6. Additional Requirements:

a. Language. Every student will be required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one language other than English. Students may demonstrate this proficiency at any time prior to the award of the degree sought through examination. Students without a sufficient level of language skill will be expected to enroll in such courses as may be necessary to fulfill this requirement.

b. Legal Foundations of International Affairs (2 semesters no grade, credit only). This course will realize the great synergies of international affairs within any law school. Its purpose is to provide a foundation, in law, for understanding the operation and limits of global systems of formal and informal governance. The course will introduce students to the basics of international law, transnational law, the law of non-governmental actors, and comparative law. The objective is to ensure that students understand the foundations, vocabulary and principles of the law underlying the study of international affairs.

b. Ethics (credit, no grade). This course is meant to complete the student’s introduction to foundational issues in international affairs. While the “Legal Foundations” course introduces students to formal and informal substantive organizational law, this ethics module will introduce students to appropriate behavioral norms in formulating, analyzing, advocating, implementing and monitoring policy. The course will consist of a series of lectures and modules that focus on the ethical issues derived from material covered in the core curriculum.


The interdisciplinary and cooperative potential of DIA will be realized beyond the core curriculum. The objective would be to combine this core training with specialized study in one or more areas. The curriculum also might draw upon regional or cultural subspecialties and language training.”

All candidates for the Master’s degree will be expected to select an area of concentration (AC). ACs should reflect the evolving emphases of policy makers and the interests of our students. Most will be identified as the substance of the evolving core course Introduction to Current Policy Challenges. Because of the rich diversity of course offerings typically offered at research university, for example, DIA Master’s candidates would have a large selection of ACs. However, the focus of DIA will be on the creation of a integrated set of course offering drawn from all other academic units within the university as appropriate. The DIA will provide a number of integrated AC courses of study to help guide candidates and to draw on the particular strengths of the university.

Drawing on the wealth of substantive, analytic, theoretical and professional courses already offered in the University, DIA will be able to offer its students the possibilities to choose an emphasis to meet virtually any interest—from geography, to information technology, to agriculture, law, journalism, the social sciences, education, mathematics, the hard sciences or any other substantive field. A list of courses throughout the University curriculum appropriate for cross listing is set forth in Appendix D.

Suggested Specific Areas of Concentration (“ACs”): Potential ACs are meant to be extremely flexible and multidisciplinary. Fields of study may include:
-Public international law
-International business and economic law
-International organizations
-Law and development
-International monetary policy
-International trade and commercial policies
-Political systems and theory
-Development economics
-Political economy
-Foreign direct investment
-International environmental issues, policy and governance
-Information and communication
-International negotiations and conflict resolution
-Geographic specialties
-Policy specialties (e.g., (1) climate change; (2) communicable diseases; (3) conflicts and arms proliferation; (4) access to education; (5) financial instability; (6) governance and corruption; (7) malnutrition and hunger; (8) migration; (9) sanitation and access to clean water; and (10) subsidies and trade barriers).

The specific courses suggested for completing each of these concentrations, of course, would have to be developed at every institution. Once developed, students will also be encouraged to develop their own specialization based on their needs and desires.

Programs of concentration will be adopted in close cooperation with DIA core and affiliate faculty, who will act as program of study advisors to DIA Master’s students.


This proposal has certain implications for accreditation, but none for certification, or licensure. Accreditation may be obtained through a professional organization—the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (“APDIA”), information available at APDIA “comprises 29 member schools in the United States, ADIA and Europe dedicated to the improvement of professional education in international affairs and the advancement thereby of international understanding, prosperity, peace, and security. APDIA members work to promote excellence in professional, international affairs education worldwide by sharing information and ideas among member schools and with other higher education institutions, the international affairs community, and the general public.” Membership in APDIA is not required for the DIA to commence operation but is highly desirable and may be obtained after DIA begins operation.

Membership in APDIA requires conformity to a number of requirements. See APDIA membership qualifications available at These include the following: (a) an educational program of high academic quality; (b) a substantial and demonstrated commitment to the study of international affairs; (c) a basic commitment to graduate professional training; and (d) significant autonomy within a major university, e.g., as one would expect to find with a Law School or graduate Business School. These criteria can be demonstrated in a variety of ways. DIA is confident that it can demonstrate the existence of qualifications sufficient to afford it membership in APDIA. The APDIA describes these as follows:

The existence of these qualifications may be demonstrated by the following: a) significant programs of research and publications in international affairs; b) an integrated curriculum comprised of courses for the most part, if not exclusively, developed and located in the professional international affairs school; c) an integrated curriculum which combines professional training, the study of geographical regions, and the analytical tools of specialized disciplines; d) a record of educating graduates for and in cooperation with distinctive clienteles, including international affairs agencies, international business and financial corporations, international organizations, and the communications and academic professions; e) a substantial, if not exclusive, commitment to professionally oriented graduate education; f) a faculty for the most part integral to or designated for the professional school; g) a relationship to the parent university characterized by substantial autonomy as is usual to a professional school within higher education; h) programs abroad, including exchange and affiliation arrangements.” See


Internationalization of the legal curriculum is inevitable. Many law schools have already begun to respond to this change in the environment in which lawyers must be trained. On the academic side, research that remains tied to a particular local will be marginalized as increasingly parochial in the coming decades. There are several possible responses to legal internationalization. I have suggested one approach that I believe will pay significant dividends to law schools, the university of which they are part, and their faculty and students.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a brilliant piece.