Teaching International Law: Lessons from Clinical Education

Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law, Annual 2010 | Go to article overview

Teaching International Law: Lessons from Clinical Education


This panel was convened at 10:45 a.m., Thursday, March 25, 2010, by its moderator, Richard J. Wilson, of American University, who introduced the panelists: Bernard Duhaime, of the University of Quebec at Montreal; Lusine Hovhannisian, of the Public Interest Law Institute; Deena Hurwitz, of the University of Virginia School of Law; and Hector O1asolo, of the University of Utrecht.

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS BY RICHARD J. WILSON *

Good morning and welcome to our panel discussion on teaching international law through clinical legal education. I was told that this is the first panel on clinical legal education in the Society's history, which makes this a momentous occasion. My own research and writing at ASIL this spring focuses on a book I am writing on the global growth of clinical legal education. This morning, I will first introduce the panelists in the order in which they will speak, providing some information on each speaker, and then I will briefly provide some remarks on the issues the panel will discuss.

Our first speaker will be Bernard Duhaime, who is Professor of Law at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) and Director of UQAM's International Clinic for the Defence of Human Rights. The second speaker will be Lusine Hovhannisian, the Program Director for Legal Education Reform, NGO Advocacy Training, and Public Interest Law Fellowships at the Public Interest Law Institute (PILI), with offices in New York and Budapest. She has provided technical assistance and advice for the creation and development of clinical legal education programs in a variety of countries in Central and Eastern Europe, including former Soviet Republics. Our third speaker will be Deena Hurwitz, Associate Professor of Law and General Faculty Director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic and Human Rights Program at the University of Virginia School of Law. Our fourth and final speaker will be Hector Olasolo, Professor of International Criminal Law and Procedure at the Willem Pompe Institute of the University of Utrecht, and one of the founders and directors of that law faculty's newly established Clinic on Conflict, Human Rights and International Justice.

Our panel's title is "Teaching International Law: Lessons from Clinical Legal Education." Consistent with this year' s broad conference theme of international law in a time of change, it deals with two relatively recent changes in that field. First, it deals with a method or philosophy of law teaching within legal education: clinical legal education. Second, it deals with an even more recent development within the clinical teaching movement, both here in the United States and abroad: the teaching of international law, and particularly, given today's panelists, international human rights law. Let me set the stage for the discussion by providing some definitions and context.

First, what is a clinic in the context of the academic curriculum of legal education? The term "clinic" comes from the field of medicine, and in that context refers to that later stage of formal training in which the medical student, with some theoretical and scientific preparation, works with real patients, both in the lab and at the patient's bedside, accompanied by a trained physician-teacher. No one could imagine a doctor practicing medicine without this dimension of practical training, and law teaching has, at long last, begun to see the merits of similar training of lawyers for practice within the law school curriculum--not only through the traditional apprenticeships that are often required, particularly in the civil law tradition, but through a pedagogy of practice. Change is happening within legal education, no small accomplishment among institutional structures and actors deeply bound to tradition!

Clinics, which are most associated with the common law tradition, have a long history that starts outside the United States and the common law. The first mention of clinical education in law came from Germany in the mid-nineteenth century, and a clinic was operating in Copenhagen, Denmark, in the late nineteenth century--well before the first so-called legal dispensary opened at the University of Pennsylvania in 1893. …

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