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International and Comparative Law: Meeting Today’s Challenges

March 01, 2011

Engaging Globally at Penn


From the environment to the economy to security, international challenges are defining the 21st century. Lawyers today are called upon as leaders to address some of the most daunting global problems – challenges ranging from the rapid flow of capital across borders, to combating international terror groups while maintaining civil liberties, to regulating technology that defies traditional notions of physical borders.

“The global environment has created not only unprecedented challenges but also unprecedented opportunities in the law,” said Eric Feldman, Deputy Dean of International Affairs and a Professor of Law specializing in Japan at Penn Law. “The faculty at Penn Law is at the forefront of international legal scholarship and practice that will make a real difference in the world. As experts in our fields, we are consulted by people and institutions on every continent and regularly participate in bilateral and international engagements across a wide range of topics. As teachers, we are committed to preparing law graduates who understand and can adeptly navigate the global landscape.”

Penn Law has unsurpassed strengths in the legal systems of the world’s most important and dynamic regions, including East Asia, South Asia, and the European Union, as well as outstanding breadth and depth in the fields of international economic law and human rights. An historical leader in teaching international and comparative law, the Law School has built upon this foundation over the past several years to create an International Program offering unrivalled opportunities for students.

“Penn Law’s curriculum is infused with global analysis at all levels of study,” said Amy Gadsden, Associate Dean of International Affairs at Penn Law. “Our students engage in rigorous legal studies with one of the nation’s most outstanding law school faculties. Our professors and scholars bring diverse training, research interests, and scholarly work to instill a broad global view of the role of law in society into all their courses.”

In recent years, Gadsden noted, “we have focused on developing more programs that give students firsthand experience with what it means to practice law in an international or foreign setting. Whether interning in a Japanese law firm, working at an NGO in Namibia, or meeting with regulators in Italy, Penn Law students are applying what they are learning in the classroom to real world settings abroad and raising questions in class based on real life encounters overseas. ”

For students seeking to pursue international or comparative legal studies, the Law School provides:

  • An international and comparative law program that offers more than 20 courses each year and myriad opportunities for research and international experience.
  • Access to world-class faculty and visiting international legal scholars recognized globally as leaders in their fields; in recent years the Law School has welcomed senior academics and practitioners from China, Japan, Germany, France, Nigeria, Denmark and India through the Bok Visiting International Professor Program. 
  • Joint degrees and certificate programs, including the JD/MA in International Studies with the Lauder Institute at Wharton, the JD/LLM with Hong Kong University, and the JD/MA in Global Business Law with Sciences Po/Paris I; and Certificates of Study in such fields as East Asian Studies, Middle East and Islamic Studies, International Business and Law; and other options.
  • The Transnational Human Rights Legal Clinic, engaging students in direct legal representation of individual and organizational clients before a variety of international and domestic venues.
  • The International Summer Human Rights Fellowship and Mead Fellowship programs, supporting Penn Law students engaged in human rights and rule of law work in areas as diverse as South America, Central Asia, Africa, and elsewhere.
  • The Penn Law International Internship Program , which places students in local law firms in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa, and career planning resources;
  • Dozens of events, conferences, and symposia each year;
  • The Global Research Seminar, an intensive international research course where  students and faculty investigate real-world contemporary legal challenges by meeting with experts and stakeholders during an overseas research trip.
  • Study abroad opportunities with Penn Law’s seven formal partners: Bucerius Law School in Hamburg; ESADE Law School in Barcelona; Hong Kong University, Sciences Po/Paris I in Paris; Tel Aviv University Law School; Tsinghua Law School in Beijing; and Wasada Law School in Tokyo.
  • International and comparative law journals and student groups.

Penn Law’s uniquely cross-disciplinary faculty and academic programs provide students with extensive links to the international and foreign area studies resources of the University’s other elite professional schools, including Wharton, Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, and Penn’s specialized centers and institutes. These resources allow students to prepare for the increasingly global legal environment by providing an understanding of the economic, political, social and philosophical contexts of foreign and international law. 

 Penn Law’s proximity to New York City and Washington, D.C. enables the Law School to attract to campus leading scholars, practitioners and public figures in international law and related fields .

“When I entered law school, my goal was to practice corporate law internationally,” said Jill Concannon L’03, an Associate at White & Case, London. “Although I didn’t know it when I chose Penn, Penn Law was the absolute best place I could have chosen to launch my career, which has taken me from London, to Hong Kong, and back to London again, where I’m currently based.”

“Whether a student seeks to focus on human rights or international banking, Asian law or Islamic legal codes, Penn Law provides the intellectual and institutional resources necessary for a student to take advantage of a rich academic program while enhancing their professional expertise,” said Michael Fitts, Dean of Penn Law. “There has never been a more exciting time to pursue international legal studies at Penn.”