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A range of scholars who explored Western efforts to enact legal reform in Russia agreed that the challenge is daunting. “Success has been modest in Russia,” Penn Professor of Law Jacques deLisle commented during a two-part conference last November on Russian Law Reform.

Seven speakers detailed the stumbling blocks to reform, among them cultural and political differences, widespread corruption which obstructs change, ordinary citizens’ skepticism of new market economies, and distrust of outside interference – all of which can compromise the best intentions. Presenters said long-term commitment, collaboration, and cultivating a deep understanding of the local culture breed success.

Dimitry Lobatch, senior counselor and head of the legal section of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN, lent a native’s perspective, encouraging America to keep pushing reform. Lobatch said it is imperative to train Russian law students in the United States, to create a legal framework for small businesses, and to make judicial reform a priority.

In the second session, the speakers shared their experiences in other countries with emerging economies. Charles A. Cadwell, director of the Center for Institutional Reform in the Informal Sector at the University of Maryland, advises developing countries on issues of economic growth. Caldwell talked about his involvement in a large project in Bangladesh, where scores of competent local people are trying to effect change but are so enmeshed in the political system that it is hard to achieve. Despite these difficulties, Philip Nichols, associate professor of Legal Studies at The Wharton School of Business, believes reforms are possible. As an example, he pointed to post-war Japan, where a great

“Success has been modest in Russia,”
Penn Professor of Law
Jacques deLisle commented.
deal of reform occurred in two years.

The Russian-American Institute for Law & Economics sponsored the conference. Other presenters were Kim Lane Scheppele, professor of law and psychology at Penn Law School; Don Wallace Jr., chairman of the International Law Institute in Washington and professor of law at Georgetown University; and Edward L. Rubin, professor of law at Penn Law School. Moderators were Law School Dean Michael A. Fitts and Dick Thornburgh, former Governor of Pennsylvania and U.S. Attorney General.

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