Getting Real about Globalization and Legal Education: Potential and Perspectives for the U.S

By Silver, Carole | Stanford Law & Policy Review, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview
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Getting Real about Globalization and Legal Education: Potential and Perspectives for the U.S

Silver, Carole, Stanford Law & Policy Review



Globalization's influence permeates the economy, the state, and civil society, and is felt no less in law than in other fields. (1) For future lawyers, this influence is as significant as technological competence. Just as e-mail, texting, Facebook, and tweets are part of the lexicon and skill-set for the current generation of law graduates, and have remarkably changed patterns of work over the last twenty-five years, (2) so will tomorrow's lawyers be required to understand how to work in a globally diverse environment--whether based on relationships with clients, business executives, jurors, regulators, or other lawyers--as well as in contexts shaped by globalization.

For quite some time, U.S. law schools have acknowledged globalization while attempting to control its impact. (3) Their approaches to addressing globalization have focused on creating additional courses and co-curricular activities such as journals and moot court opportunities on topics that deal with foreign, international, or transnational law. (4) While these additions certainly help raise consciousness and deepen an understanding of legal differences among jurisdictions, they are analogous to learning about the Internet from reading about it rather than from using it. Teaching about globalization, rather than experiencing its challenges directly, allows schools to control the influence exerted by global forces on their existing approaches and activities. At the same time, globalization has become another weapon in the competitive battles law schools undertake to buttress their reputations for purposes of attracting applicants, donors, faculty, and prospective employers of their graduates. (5)

Today's students must learn to work in a global environment (6) as well as learn about relevant law. (7) This is crucial for domestic students, (8) including those who may not anticipate a practice typically associated with global clients, as well as for international students whose presence in U.S. law schools itself is recognition of the importance of globally relevant professional capital and expertise. (9) As one in-house counsel explained, "You can always learn technical details and applicable law but being able to work successfully with people from different countries, different cultures, with different world views, requires a skill set that is more people oriented than substantive oriented." (10) This contemplates an alternative focus from that typical of legal education. While a traditional approach might focus on variation among legal systems and substantive law--important topics in themselves--learning to work in an environment that is defined by a plurality of professional and business cultures and languages, the roles lawyers assume in society, and the ambiguity surrounding these factors, involves multi-dimensional learning. (11) Put another way, intercultural competency can be understood as involving three elements: (12) cognitive, which "refers to possessing knowledge about cultural norms, values, behaviors, and issues"; affective, which "relates to the flexibility to adapt to new situations and open-mindedness to encounter new values"; and behavioral, which includes "resourcefulness, problem-solving skills, and culturally appropriate people skills." (13) These factors are reflected in the challenges posed by globalization to lawyers' responsibilities and roles.

Lawyers must be adept at developing working relationships with colleagues and clients; generally, the lawyer-to-lawyer relationship is eased by the shared commonality of legal education in the U.S., supported by the relatively standard approach and curriculum. This is missing in relationships with lawyers from other countries.

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Getting Real about Globalization and Legal Education: Potential and Perspectives for the U.S


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