Global Law in American Law Schools: Prospects and Difficulties of Incorporating a Transnational Element in Legal Education

36 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2007

See all articles by Larry Catá Backer

Larry Catá Backer

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law

Date Written: March 9, 2007


Many law schools are now wrestling with issues relating to the incorporation of a transnational legal component — including elements of international, comparative, foreign and transnational law — within their teaching and scholarship missions. These changes mirror discussions within the legal academy over a move from a "national law practice" to a multi-jurisdictional practice model of legal education. There is a sense that, just as American law schools shifted from a local to a national legal orientation about a century ago, today law schools must shift from a national to a transnational focus in this century. The paper suggests a possible structure for analysis of the value of integrating the transnational element within the teaching, research and service of law school stakeholders. It will then propose a set of framework structures for incorporating the transborder element in law school curricular, research and service activities. The paper will consider three traditional models for incorporating the transborder element into law school curricula: the integration, aggregation and segregation models. Each seeks to modify existing resources and teaching/research models to incorporate a transnational element into the curriculum. The paper then considers two emerging framework structures for the incorporation of transnational elements in legal education. The first, the immersion model, depends on the ability of a law school to forge effective networks with law schools in other states. The second, the multi-disciplinary departmental model, is based on the idea that the transnational element in law is distinct enough to merit a substantial treatment in its own right. This last approach represents a substantial departure from traditional approaches to law teaching and research. The paper ends with a consideration of implementation issues for developing a multi-disciplinary departmental approach to incorporating the transnational element in legal education.

Keywords: transnational law, legal education, international law

JEL Classification: I20, I21, K00, K40

Suggested Citation

Backer, Larry Catá, Global Law in American Law Schools: Prospects and Difficulties of Incorporating a Transnational Element in Legal Education (March 9, 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Larry Catá Backer (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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