International Law in National Schools

63 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2015 Last revised: 21 Jul 2016

Ryan Scoville

Marquette University - Law School

Date Written: February 1, 2016


Why is international law ineffective at times in achieving its aims, such as preventing human rights abuses, forestalling armed conflict, and ensuring global cooperation on matters ranging from the environment to nuclear proliferation? This Article offers original empirical research to support the argument that an important and underappreciated part of the answer lies in legal education. Conducting a global survey on the study of international law at thousands of law schools in over one hundred and ninety countries, the Article reveals significant cross-national disparities in the pervasiveness of international legal training, and draws on other research to highlight similar variations in instructional quality, topical emphases, and ideological orientation.

The central claim is that these conditions inhibit the efficacy of international law. In states where training in international law is widespread, rigorous, and supportive of the discipline, universities materially contribute to norm awareness, utilization, and even obedience over the long run. But in the significant number of states where training is unavailable or limited, poor in quality, or critical of global norms, universities have a neutral or opposite effect. Moreover, the fact of cross-national variation in these conditions imposes a systemic limit on the coherence and value of international law. This analysis carries important implications for U.S. law schools, as well as universities and foreign ministries around the world.

Keywords: public international law, compliance, socialization, legal education, constructivism, comparative international law

Suggested Citation

Scoville, Ryan, International Law in National Schools (February 1, 2016). Indiana Law Journal (2016 Forthcoming); Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 16-07. Available at SSRN: or

Ryan M. Scoville (Contact Author)

Marquette University - Law School ( email )

Eckstein Hall
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201
United States
720-993-0197 (Phone)

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