PUBLISHED:July 22, 2011

Duke's transnational summer institutes celebrate 25 years

Duke’s summer institutes in Hong Kong and Geneva prepare students for globalized practice

Students from across the globe have again convened in Hong Kong and Geneva to participate in Duke’s summer institutes, four-week residential programs that feature exposure to the operations of legal and corporate institutions abroad, cross-cultural experiences, and rigorous courses taught by a world-class faculty which this year includes Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“The summer institutes are our way of helping prepare students for the practice of law in today's globalized world,” said Associate Dean for International Studies Judy Horowitz, who has been involved since the program’s inception in 1986 as “Duke in Denmark” at the University of Copenhagen.

Twenty-five years later, Duke Law continues to partner with the faculties of law at elite host institutions. In presenting the Duke-Geneva Institute in Transnational Law and Asia-America Institute in Transnational Law, Duke partners with the University of Geneva and University of Hong Kong, respectively. 

The programs are designed for U.S. JD students who have completed at least one year of law school, international students who will embark on LLM programs at American law schools in the fall, advanced law students, and internationally trained lawyers, judges, and academics. All Duke Law students pursuing an LLM in international and comparative law concurrently with their JD attend a summer institute and often pair the experience with summer work abroad. Duke JD and LLM candidates routinely comprise about one-third of the total enrolled. »

Duke-Geneva Institute In Transnational Law - 2011

Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court (seated front row, center, with Duke Law Professor Richard Schmalbeck at left and Associate Dean Jennifer Maher on the far right) is co-teaching a course on Separation of Powers at the Duke-Geneva Transnational Institute.

Participants benefit from the unique economic, political, and legal features of each host city, taking field trips to international law firms and such institutions as the World Trade Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, and International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, or the Stock Exchange and Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong. 

The curricular goals of each institute are threefold, said Donald Horowitz, the James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science and longtime faculty director of the Asia-America Institute. “We take common legal problems and try to see them from the angle of at least two different legal systems,” he said.  “We teach courses, again from different national angles, that cannot be taught at Duke.  And we take current or emerging topics in the law of various countries and try to illuminate them by comparison, an example being a constitutional development course focusing on Asian and African countries.

“In today’s globalized world, lawyers increasingly find that they need to know the laws regulating international transactions and the laws of other countries,” he said, adding that the   institutes’ curricula change every year depending on changing subject matter and the availability of the best expert-teachers from all over the world.  Justice Scalia is currently co-teaching a course in Geneva titled Separation of Powers.

Another major goal of the institutes is to provide students from a broad range of national and ethnic backgrounds with opportunities to engage each other, added Richard Schmalbeck, the Simpson Thacher & Bartlett Professor of Law and faculty director of the Duke-Geneva Institute. “It is always and everywhere true that law students learn a great deal from each other, and the rich mix of students that both programs attract is among their greatest virtues.”

Marcella Harshbarger JD/LLM ’02 recalled how Geneva administrators’ practice of pairing Duke Law students with international roommates helped relationships flourish in the intimate setting.  “It allowed for some great cross-cultural exchange over fondue and drinks after class.  We toured the local sites together and I count many of those classmates as friends today.  In fact, through my travels, I have been able to visit some former classmates in their home countries.”

Harshbarger, now senior corporate counsel at a U.S. subsidiary of France Telecom in Washington, D.C., also welcomed the viewpoints of international professors who often offered “a refreshing break from the dominant U.S. perspective.”  She further credits the program with helping her appreciate the wealth of international opportunities available in a legal career.

Asia-America Institute in Transnational Law - 2011

Duke Law alumni recently gathered for dinner in Hong Kong with faculty from Duke’s Asia-American Institute in Transnational Law. Back row, from left to right: Gary Chen, Haochen Sun, Iman Roy, Wang Yi, Jeff Zhang, Eva Yu, Dian Shah, Xin Dai, Rita Pang, and Jeremy Entwisle. Front row: Assistant Dean Melanie Dunshee, Professor Don Horowitz, Associate Dean Judy Horowitz, and Professor David Lange.

John Simpkins JD/LLM ’99 also said the summer institute in Hong Kong was critical to his professional path.

“I left with a clear understanding of how I could craft a career in comparative law that combined teaching, practice, and scholarship.  The conversations I had outside of class with professors were as valuable as the classroom instruction,” said John Simpkins JD/LLM ’99, who teaches courses in international and comparative law and comparative constitutional design at the Charleston School of Law.  Simpkins noted that he arrived in Hong Kong the morning after Great Britain handed power over to China.  “Witnessing the changes in Hong Kong up close and having an instructor like Professor [Yash] Ghai, who was directly involved in the creation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, were experiences that could not have been replicated in a typical law school setting.”