Isolation and Globalization: The Dawn of Legal Education in Bhutan

The Globalization of Legal Education (Bryant Garth, Anthea Roberts & Gregory Shaffer eds., CUP, Forthcoming

9 Yonsei Law Journal 1 (2018)

University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper

Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19-02-02

36 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2019

See all articles by David S. Law

David S. Law

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law; University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: February 23, 2019

Abstract

The Kingdom of Bhutan — dubbed by some the “hermit kingdom” — has a famously ambivalent attitude toward globalization. Bhutan’s first law school opened its doors in 2017 on the heels of the country’s transformation into a “democratic constitutional monarchy,” and the creation of the school embodies this ambivalence. On the one hand, Bhutan is keen to preserve its culture and traditions not only as an end in itself, but also as a means of ensuring its continued existence as a tiny nation in the shadow of domineering neighbors. For centuries, isolation from the outside world served these goals.

On the other hand, the Bhutanese recognize that a survival strategy of self-imposed isolation in the Himalayas is increasingly difficult to sustain in the twenty-first century, and that the pragmatic response to globalization is to borrow selectively and deliberately from foreign models according to local needs. Indeed, a degree of borrowing is a matter of necessity. In the absence of raw materials for constructing a system of legal education that could plausibly described as autochthonous, resistance to foreign models is not an option, and necessity is the mother of imitation.

The challenge for Bhutan — if not also other developing countries — is to embrace globalization in a way that does not compromise its identity or distinctiveness. The creation of Bhutan’s first law school illustrates that this may in fact be possible because globalization is not simply a process of relentless homogenization. The adoption of a globalized model of legal education leaves meaningful room for choice because the ‘global’ does not speak with a unified voice. From the historical training of lawyers in India to the funding of current educational efforts by US law firms, the global influences on Bhutanese legal education are disparate, and the process of integrating, reconciling, and localizing them has scarcely begun.

Keywords: Legal Education, Law Schools, Curriculum, Graduate Education, Law School Admissions, Faculty Recruitment, Comparative Law, Accreditation, Globalization, Law and Development, Nation-Building, Foreign Aid, Bhutan, India, United States, Austria

Suggested Citation

Law, David S., Isolation and Globalization: The Dawn of Legal Education in Bhutan (February 23, 2019). The Globalization of Legal Education (Bryant Garth, Anthea Roberts & Gregory Shaffer eds., CUP, Forthcoming; 9 Yonsei Law Journal 1 (2018); University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper; Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19-02-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3340410

David S. Law (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

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Hong Kong, Hong Kong
China

HOME PAGE: http://www.davidlaw.ca

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

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