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Bill Burke-White

William W. Burke-White

Professor of Law

Bill Burke-White, an international lawyer and political scientist, is a leading expert on U.S. foreign policy, multilateral institutions, and international law.

He researches and writes on the relationships between law and politics in international affairs and has particular expertise on the design and implementation of complex global governance solutions that involve multiple countries, international institutions, and multilateral legal regimes. He has significant regional expertise on Russia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. His current research examines the role of sub-state actors in the international legal system and the impacts of changing global power dynamics on the norms and structures of international law.

Beyond Penn Carey Law, Burke-White is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution and serves as Senior Advisor to White & Case LLP. At the Brookings Institution, Burke-White is engaged in a range of projects relating to the reform of the multilateral order. At White & Case, Burke-White is working with the firm’s senior leadership to design, develop, and implement a global thought leadership platform embedded within one of the world’s leading law firms.

From 2014-2019, Burke-White served as the Inaugural Director of Perry World House, Penn’s interdisciplinary international affairs institute. Building Perry World House from the ground up, Burke-White established a cutting-edge policy think tank embedded within Penn’s academic community and recruited staff, faculty and visiting policy fellows from across the globe. Through Perry World House’s two inaugural research themes, Burke-White helped drive research and policy engagement on the future of the global order and global shifts: urbanization, migration, and demography. From 2011-2014, Burke-White served as the Deputy Dean of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.

From 2009-11, Burke-White served in the Obama administration on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, where he was principal drafter of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, Secretary Clinton’s hallmark initiative to reform the Department of State and reshape U.S. foreign policy. While at the State Department, Burke-White was also responsible for issues related to U.S. engagement with international institutions, including the G-20, the G-8, and the United Nations, as well as U.S. policy toward the Russian Federation.

Burke-White’s broader academic work sits at the intersection of international law and international relations. He has written widely on topics including multilateralism, changing global power structures, human rights, international institutions, and international economic law. Burke-White’s academic writings have appeared in leading international legal journals and he regularly offers commentary in the media, including opinion pieces in The Hill,, The International Herald Tribune, and The Atlantic. He is currently working on a book project entitled “The New Geography of Global Governance and How International Law Got Lost.”

Burke-White has advised a range of governments, law firms, and investment funds on issues including U.S. policy toward foreign policy hotspots (including Russia, Venezuela, and Iran), U.S. and international sanctions regimes, sovereign debt enforcement and sovereign bankruptcy processes, and the impact of international legal rules and institutions on client’s political and business objectives. Burke-White has served as an expert witness in a number of international arbitrations under the auspices of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. He is currently advising two sovereign states on potential litigation before the International Court of Justice.

He holds both a bachelor’s and law degrees from Harvard University, and a doctorate in international relations from Cambridge University, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He has served as visiting professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Harvard Law, the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and Mofid University in Iran. While on sabbatical from Penn for the 2019-20 academic year he is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. In 2008, he received the A. Leo Levin Award, and in 2007 he received the Robert A. Gorman Award for Excellence in Teaching.