About the Program

The University of Virginia School of Law has long been one of the country’s most distinguished institutions of teaching and research in international law.

The History of International Law at UVA

Faculty and graduates of the Law School played pivotal roles in the United States’ engagement with international law and institutions. John Bassett Moore, an 1880 graduate, served as assistant U.S. secretary of state and was the first American judge to serve on the Permanent Court of International Justice. Dean Hardy Cross Dillard, also a graduate, later served as a judge on the International Court of Justice, and Monroe Leigh, a leading international law scholar, served as legal adviser to the U.S. Department of State and president of the American Society of International Law. The Virginia Journal of International Law is the oldest continuously published, student-edited law review in the United States, and remains one of the finest and most cited.

In more recent years, Professor Emeritus John Norton Moore served as a U.S. ambassador to the negotiations that produced the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, after which he established the world’s leading research center in this area. Professor Richard Lillich, who served on the faculty from 1969 until his death in 1996, was a founder of the field of international human rights law. David Martin, now an emeritus professor, is the leading academic expert on immigration law in the United States and served as general counsel of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and as deputy general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security. Four members of the faculty have served as counselor for international law to the legal adviser of the State Department, twice as many as any other law school. One of them, Professor Paul Stephan, led a team of experts in producing the American Law Institute’s Fourth Restatement of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States.

The Program Today

Today, Virginia Law continues this tradition with one of the strongest international law programs in the country. It offers a wide range of courses that cover all major areas, including international trade and finance, human rights and immigration, the law governing war and use of force, environmental law, international litigation and arbitration, and comparative constitutional law. Its faculty includes internationally renowned experts in these fields. In addition, foreign professors are regularly invited to teach seminars on topics such as European Union law and comparative law, and students may take select courses at the neighboring Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School. The Law School also offers short courses in Paris and Tel Aviv, as well as semester-long exchanges with several leading law faculties abroad and a dual-degree program with Sciences Po in Paris.

Experiencing International Law in Practice

Virginia Law offers multiple opportunities for students to experience international law in practice. Its curriculum includes the International Human Rights Law Clinic and the Human Rights Study Project, which yearly sends a student team to research and document human rights issues in a foreign country. Monroe Leigh Fellowships and Public Interest Law Association (PILA) grants allow students to pursue a public international law project during the summer. These have included internships with the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the U.N. World Food Program, the International Finance Corporation, the U.S. Department of Justice, the CDC’s Global AIDS Project, and nongovernmental organizations such as EarthRights International, the International Center for Transitional Justice and Human Rights Now. The Law School also offers a yearly fellowship for a student to spend a year as a full-time trainee at the International Court of Justice after graduation.

Extracurricular Opportunities

The Law School is also home to dynamic student organizations devoted to international law. As noted above, the Virginia Journal of International Law is the finest and most authoritative student-run international law journal in the United States, while the John Bassett Moore Society of International Law organizes lectures and social events.  The two organizations co-sponsor an annual symposium on an international law topic that brings distinguished academics and practitioners to the Law School.  Virginia Law’s teams also participate in several international law moots, and frequently advance to the international round of the Jessup International Law Moot Court competition.

National Security Law Center

The Law School hosts the National Security Law Center, which allows students to study the most pressing issues in national security law and to explore the wide range of career opportunities available in the field. The center takes advantage of the Law School’s proximity to the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School and the wide range of national security practitioners in Washington, D.C., to enrich the Law School’s course offerings with expert speakers from government and policy groups.


The Law School’s Arthur Morris Law Library hosts extensive collections and offers online research resources on international law and foreign and comparative law.


Faculty Director
Paul B. Stephan
John C. Jeffries, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Law
David H. Ibbeken ’71 Research Professor of Law
Senior Fellow, Miller Center