UVA Law Professor Paul Stephan Teaches International Civil Litigation Course in China
University of Virginia law professor Paul Stephan recently wrapped up a stint teaching at the Peking University School of Transnational Law, a law school in Shenzhen, China, that aims to provide a U.S. legal education to Chinese students.
Stephan, the director of the Graduate Studies Program and an expert on international business and Soviet and post-Soviet legal systems, taught a six-week module on international civil litigation, which is essentially an advanced civil procedure course focused on the problems that can arise from transnational disputes.
"This is the other side of the world from Virginia, but our alumni and friends are very active here and part of the excitement," Stephan said while still in China. "There may be a tendency for people interested in the world economy and international law to focus on the U.S.-Europe relationship. I love my time in Europe, but the dynamism that one encounters in this part of the world is exceptional."
Stephan is one of a number of UVA law professors who have recently taught courses abroad. (More)
The School of Transnational Law in Shenzhen graduated its first class last year. Most of its students are Chinese nationals, some of whom will go on to take the bar exam in the United States after taking the Chinese bar exam and working for a year in China.
"There is a strong emphasis on servicing the global economy and there now are global Chinese law firms, as well as foreign (largely U.S. firms) with Chinese offices," Stephan said. "Some graduates do plan to work in public interest, politics and government, largely in China although also internationally."
The school has a small permanent faculty but relies heavily on teachers from other law schools, primarily in the United States. Along with Stephan, the recently completed module also featured courses taught by professors from Stanford Law School, Georgetown Law and Penn State Law. Stephen Yandle, the school's acting dean, is a 1972 graduate of UVA Law who began his career working in the Law School's admissions office before moving on to Yale Law School.
Stephan, who previously taught a module at the school in 2011, said both the students and the professors benefit from the Shenzen school's model.
"The students here are going to be very important actors in a very important country, and I hope that I can leave some impressions that will serve them and their country well," he said. "Selfishly, we foreign visitors have an amazing experience."
The students who attend pay substantially more than what a state-provided Chinese legal education costs and tend to be highly motivated, Stephan said.
"Culturally, there is some reticence about speaking up in class, but the questions that come reveal great sophistication, technical understanding and intellectual curiosity," he said. "The students tend to lay in wait, and then ask very challenging and insightful questions. When I question them, they are very good with the answers and show considerable mastery of the readings."
On his first trip to the school, Stephan said, he was surprised by the students' energy and enthusiasm, the lack of self-censorship or ideological framing in conversations, and by the fast pace at which the area is being developed.
"The little fishing village across from the British territories that existed in 1979 had a population of about 10,000. Today Shenzhen has 15 million people. So everything is new and recently constructed," he said. "Used as I was to the Soviet model, where new construction is obsolete and falling apart before it is finished, I was surprised to find all this new construction was surprisingly attractive and well-made. It is hard to imagine how new everything is here and how much wealth has been created in this region in the last three decades. All this has not come without problems and contradictions, of course, but it is impressive all the same."
Before heading to Shenzhen, Stephan also taught an intensive one-week version of his emerging markets course at Sydney University and spent a couple weeks giving talks at its law school and at Melbourne Law School.
"I value the opportunity to combine teaching in Australia, a country that always amazes me and whose people are very friendly and outrageously funny, with work in China," he said.
In addition to Stephan, a number of University of Virginia law professors have recently taught or will soon teach law courses in several foreign countries, including Germany, Australia and South Korea.
In May, UVA law professors Kerry Abrams and Brandon Garrett taught a two-week course at the University of Münster in Germany on current issues in American law, in which they analyzed recent Supreme Court cases involving affirmative action, same-sex marriage, executive detention, health care and mandatory DNA collection.
"It was really useful and illuminating to learn about the similarities and differences between legal developments in Germany and the U.S.," Abrams said. "For me, since I'm interested in the relationship between law and culture, it was especially helpful to see how social movements such as the marriage equality movement have had a similar reception in Germany, yet [the country's] different legal structure has meant that the issues of implementation have been different than those here."
Abrams and Garrett's short course in Germany was part of an exchange program that sends German law professors to UVA to teach about European Union law. In the fall, for example, University of Münster professors Matthias Casper and Hans Jarass will teach at Virginia Law.
"I had a wonderful time meeting the students and faculty in Münster," Abrams said. "The students were bright and interesting and excited to learn about U.S. law. The faculty invited us to their lunch workshop, and we met with many of them one-on-one for some fascinating discussions."
UVA law professor Darryl Brown taught at the University of Münster in June 2012 and was a visiting scholar at the school's Criminal Law Institute during the fall semester. Professors Michal Barzuza and Dotan Oliar taught there in 2012, as well.
UVA law professor Margo Bagley just wrapped up a week teaching two intensive courses at the Max Planck Institute's Munich Intellectual Property Law Center in Munich, Germany. Bagley has taught in Munich for the past six summers.
Professor Ethan Yale is preparing to teach at the University of Sydney in Australia in August. Yale, who will teach U.S. international taxation, said he is looking forward to the experience.
UVA law professor Albert Choi has twice taught at Korean law schools, most recently in the summer of 2010 when he taught introductory U.S. contract law to Korean students at Seoul National University Law School.
The previous year, Choi taught international business transactions at Sungkyunkwan University Law School as part of a joint program with Fordham Law School that included equal numbers of Korean and American students.
"Both experiences were quite enjoyable," Choi said. "Students were quite smart and hard-working and had a strong interest in learning more about the American legal system. Many of them had aspirations of working on international commercial transactions or litigation, and learning more about American commercial law was quite important for them."
UVA Law Dean Paul G. Mahoney , meanwhile, recently wrapped up a trip to Hong Kong and Shenzen, China, as part of a series of UVA Law alumni events in Asia.
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