|Dean Michael A. Fitts meets with State Councilor Liu Yandong, the senior Chinese government official responsible for education, in Beijing during a summit of deans representing U.S. and Chinese law schools. Fitts led the U.S. delegation. Chinese and American deans discussed potential collaborative efforts and mutual support for rule of law.|
Dean Michael A. Fitts led a delegation of U.S. law school deans to China in June for an unprecedented summit with their counterparts. After the meeting, the deans issued a joint statement outlining future efforts to promote collaboration between law schools and to explore new initiatives in substantive areas of law such as public health and the environment.
The deans agreed to form an assembly of five deans from each nation to foster these multilateral exchanges, and there was mutual recognition of the importance of the rule of law.
Also addressed were U.S. concerns over civil and political rights, due process and judicial independence in China. The summit was convened by Fitts at the suggestion of then-U.S. ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, who saw it as important forum for Chinese and American leaders in law and higher education to come together on the basis of shared values and interests.
The nine U.S. participants and their Chinese colleagues met for more than an hour with State Councillor Liu Yandong, the senior Chinese government official responsible for education.
They also met with U.S. embassy staff as well as Tung Chee Hwa, the former chief executive of Hong Kong, and Gao Xiqing, the head of the China Investment Corporation (China's sovereign wealth fund).
"This was an incredibly valuable set of meetings, "said Fitts.
"All of our country's law schools have engaged in various efforts at globalization in one form or another with many countries, including China, but the size and speed of economic and legal change in China of late tests all of our experiences and thinking. The summit allowed us to focus on where the legal relationships with, and in, China are likely to evolve for all of our institutions over the near and far term."
"The summit was an important first step," stated Wang Zhenmin, dean of Tsinghua Law School. "We look forward to building on this foundation to strengthen legal education and exchange between the United States and China as well as the rule of law and the legal profession."
During the summit the deans from China focused on ways in which legal education is able to confer both substantive knowledge of law and its implementation, as well as how it fosters analytical thinking that lawyers apply to a range of social and economic questions. They noted that China has moved to a new stage in its legal development, focused on implementation and realization of law's meaning in society. More than once, the Chinese participants inquired about the high number of American public and private sector leaders who started out in law school.
The American deans explored the rationale for internationalization and expressed appreciation of the significance that robust global linkages have played in the rapid scale-up of law schools in China. A number of participants agreed that internationalization will be a game-changer for law schools, requiring American schools to understand law as a sociological and dynamic force as much across and beyond borders as well as within them.
Accompanying Dean Fitts were Evan Caminker, University of Michigan Law School; Chris Edley, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law; JoAnne Epps, Temple University Law School; Larry Kramer, Stanford University Law School; Paul Mahoney, University of Virginia Law School; Robert Post, Yale Law School; Michael Schill, University of Chicago Law School; and William Treanor, Georgetown University Law Center.
An influential article on legal education cites Michael Fitts as one of only a handful of law deans in the United States who have transformed their institutions over the last decade. The author, Professor Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago Law School, singles out Dean Fitts for his success in recruiting and retaining leading scholars, expanding the faculty, creating a supportive academic culture, as well as a "remarkable increase" in the endowment to further these efforts.