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To break the code, Feldman says, “You need to understand the political system; you need to understand the social relations; you need to understand the economic system and the history. You can’t just pick up the Japanese Constitution and expect to make sense of it.”
Professor of Law and Sociology Kim Lane Scheppele, a renowned researcher and author who writes about fledgling Constitutional regimes in the Post-Soviet bloc, shares Feldman’s view. “The study of comparative and international law is crucial for American students …,” says Scheppele. “Well-educated lawyers must understand that there may be multiple methods of organizing political and economic institutions, and that whatever way is chosen must be sensitive to local conditions and responsive to local problems. …Only thoroughly educated American lawyers can avoid the hubris of assuming that the only way they know is invariably the best of all possible worlds. At minimum, a well-founded belief that one’s own system is the best must rest on a real comparison with other systems.”
Students have ample opportunities to fulfill that dictum. The Law School bolsters its curriculum with nearly 30 courses and seminars on Comparative and International Law. Among the offerings are Comparative Civil Procedure, Post-Communist Law and Society, Comparative Constitutional Law, International Taxation, European Union Law, and International Trade Regulation, China and International Law, and Public International Law.
Where else, says Feldman, can students pursue interests in all facets of Comparative Law to the extent that they can at Penn. “There aren’t very many law schools in this country where students who want to study Asian Law can have that need met. Almost no other place in the country has professors who specialize in both Chinese and Japanese law.”
Adds Feldman: “Penn is also unusual in having two faculty specializing in European law, Professors (William) Ewald and (Friedrich) Kübler, and is one of the few schools with an expert, Professor (Kim Lane) Scheppele, in the new field of legal transitions in Central and Eastern Europe.”
Moreover, it would be hard to find another law school where there is such strong faculty interest and serious work on international and comparative law by scholars who are recognized authorities in other areas, including Geoffrey Hazard in transnational Civil Procedure, Stephen Burbank in transnational litigation, and Chuck Mooney, Edward Rock, and David Skeel in commercial and business fields.
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