Professor Paul Stephan ’77, an expert in international and national security law at the University of Virginia School of Law, has been appointed special counsel to the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Defense.

General Counsel Paul C. Ney Jr. serves as chief legal officer for the Pentagon and director of the Defense Legal Services Agency, which provides legal advice and services for the defense agencies, field activities and other organizations. Stephan says his job is to assist Ney and the general counsel’s office however he can.

“As a legal academic, I have lived a ridiculously rewarding life, surrounded by students and colleagues who inspire me and living in a part of the country that I truly love,” said Stephan, who accepted the appointment before the COVID-19 pandemic. “I feel an obligation to give something back.”

He said his position is analogous to what in-house counsel would do, except the Pentagon is much larger than any enterprise in the country and has unique missions and challenges. Since starting in August, Stephan said he’s already tackled intellectual property work, employment law, administrative law and constitutional law.

“I hope to come out of this experience a better lawyer and a better professor,” Stephan said.

He will be on leave from the Law School for one year.

Stephan is the John C. Jeffries, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Law and a life member of the American Law Institute. He is an expert on international business, international dispute resolution and comparative law, with an emphasis on Soviet and post-Soviet legal systems.

He has advised governments and international organizations, taken part in cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal courts, and various foreign judicial and arbitral proceedings, and lectured to professionals and scholarly groups around the world on issues raised by the globalization of the world economy. From 2006-07, he served as counselor on international law in the U.S. State Department.

More recently, he served as a coordinating reporter for the American Law Institute’s “Restatement (Fourth) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States” and is co-editor of “Comparative International Law,” both published in 2018. He is a recipient of the Roger and Madeleine Traynor Faculty Achievement Award, which recognizes scholarship by a senior faculty member.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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