Preparing for Globalized Law Practice: The Need to Include International and Comparative Law in the Legal Writing Curriculum
Legal Writing, The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Vol. 17, 2011
61 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2010 Last revised: 17 Dec 2011
Date Written: April 6, 2010
Many American legal scholars have chronicled the growing importance of international and comparative legal principles in understanding and resolving contemporary legal issues. Others have asserted that the practice of law itself is becoming global, although few have attempted to demonstrate the globalization of legal practice in any systematic way. Claims about the globalization of law have led in turn to proposals for the globalization of the law school curriculum. Innovative legal educators have advanced a variety of creative proposals for incorporating more attention to global legal issues in the course work of law students. But this scholarship includes relatively little discussion about the globalization of Legal Research and Writing (LRW), the course in which most students acquire the basic tools they use to learn law on their own. While some LRW professors have pioneered the inclusion of foreign and international perspectives in their courses, few have done so in a consistent and thoroughgoing way.
This article endeavors to address this omission by arguing in favor of including a comparative and international perspective in the standard LRW curriculum. We argue that the empirical and normative premises which lie behind proposals for globalizing the law curriculum also support exposure to research and advocacy involving foreign and international law as part of the basic “toolkit” of skills that all students learn through LRW instruction. Without introducing a global perspective in LRW, the other changes in the law school curriculum will have limited impact. With an introduction to the sources and methods of using international and comparative law in LRW, however, students will be equipped to integrate global and domestic components into their analysis of a wide range of legal subjects, making the global perspective mainstream.
To address the lack of empirical evidence concerning globalization in practice, the article presents a survey of the approximately 10,000 members of the Philadelphia Bar Association regarding the extent to which they encounter foreign and international law issues in practice. The article describes the survey and reports its results. They support the conclusion that lawyers in a wide range of domestic practices regularly confront the need to know something about international and foreign law. Even when they represent fairly “ordinary” clients in what can be characterized as “typical” legal matters, they routinely encounter situations where they need to research questions of foreign or international law, and to incorporate the results of that research into their work product.
Building on these theoretical arguments and empirical observations, the article concludes by describing an experimental attempt to incorporate international and foreign law into a traditional first year LRW course. It discusses some of the challenges involved in working international and foreign legal issues into a domestic legal problem, and how those challenges were addressed in context. It also provides guidance and suggestions for possible LRW problem development, based in part on ideas derived from our survey responses.
Keywords: legal writing, legal research, international law, comparative law, legal education, globalization, advocacy, curricular reform, pedagogy
JEL Classification: K19, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation