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The course will explore how lawyers solve conflicts between different countries in a variety of contexts, like bankruptcy and national court litigation.
A new GW Law course offered this spring will help students examine increased international business disputes caused by globalization.
Law school officials added the Global Economy and International Disputes course this semester following recommendations from the school’s International and Comparative Law Program to satisfy requirements for new J.D. and L.L.M. concentrations. Kiran Gore, a professorial lecturer of law who is teaching the new course, said global economic transactions have grown as the world becomes more connected, and her class will teach students how international economic disputes can be interpreted and solved through law.
“The opportunities to engage with commentary and academic debates is really unique to this class because what we’re really trying to achieve in terms of a thesis for the class is to understand how things unfold in practice, which is very different from what law school classes typically cover, which is basic principles and ideas,” Gore said.
Gore said her class will explore how lawyers solve conflicts between different countries in a variety of contexts like bankruptcy and national court litigation. She said the spring class was originally at full capacity with 18 students but expanded to include 20 students because of high demand.
She said students taking the course are pursuing similar advanced courses to further their understanding of international business transactions and have expressed interest in the field through prior internships and beginner-level coursework on dispute resolution. She said many of her students also took all of the possible prerequisite courses for the class, surpassing the standard requirement.
“You can’t be a business lawyer or a business litigation lawyer in Washington D.C. or a city like New York without having an international flavor to your practice,” Gore said. “So there’s just no such thing, in my personal opinion, as a local lawyer anymore, and you need to be open to understanding how global trade and global business transactions unfold.”
She said modern legal and economic issues, like the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s Suez Canal blockage, complicated global transactions and have created a high demand for international dispute resolution lawyers.
Gore said the coursework is unique because students analyze secondary legal materials, like blog posts and legal commentary in law journals, to supplement the primary materials like cases and lawsuits.
“The goal really is for students to pick up things that are unique and different and that are not readily presented to them in the student setting and maybe things they will experience in real life once they go out and practice,” she said.
Experts in international business transactions and commercial arbitration said legal cases that involve disputes among different countries are inevitable and require lawyers that are apt in international law. They said courses on international dispute resolution and arbitration are essential to practicing law after leaving law school because it trains the students to identify risks.
Ronald Brand, a professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh, said courses like Global Economy and International Disputes will increase law students’ awareness of different forms of dispute resolution, like online dispute resolution. He said a global perspective on matters like arbitration helps students further understand other law topics, like litigation.
“I consistently have people coming back and saying that what they’ve covered in these types of courses is something that they have used,” Brand said.
Brand said law students need to be aware of international perspectives within law to “effectively and ethically” practice. He said international dispute resolution is becoming a regular part of legal practice instead of a niche.
“In today’s world, you really can’t practice law without coming across matters that cross borders,” Brand said.
Cash Nickerson, a visiting professor of practice at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, said law education should have an international focus because the United States has established “mediation systems” to deal with business disputes that may not be as accessible in other countries. He said international law education should teach students “soft skills in negotiation,” like strategy and communication and the contrasts between cultures, to help resolve disputes between countries.
“Cross-cultural issues are paramount in terms of communicating with both clients and counterparties and business partners,” Nickerson said.
Paul Klaas, a professor of law at the University of Minnesota, said the course should teach American law students the differences between U.S. law and international law and understand which country’s law to apply in each case. He said some American legal practices, like the use of juries or the exposure of opposing party evidence, are uncommon in other countries.
“You could get through an American law degree and not realize that some of what you’re learning is quite unusual as far as the rest of the world is concerned,” Klaas said.
This article appeared in the January 18, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.
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