Professor Jay Butler, a Rhodes Scholar and an expert in international law and corporate social responsibility, will join the University of Virginia School of Law faculty in the fall.

Butler instructed about 40 UVA Law students in International Business Transactions in the fall as a visiting professor, and the good reviews were mutual.

“One of the true benefits of UVA is the students,” he said. “The students are tremendously smart and insightful.”

That positive experience, plus a wide range of collegial interactions with the Law School’s faculty, cemented his choice, he said. Butler currently serves as an associate professor at William & Mary Law School. He previously was a teaching fellow at Columbia Law School, and has taught as a visitor at Yale Law School and the George Washington University Law School. His writing examines corporations and their adherence to international law, including how they can lead through global governance and policymaking.

“Jay Butler is integrating business and international law in fresh and exciting ways. His is an important emerging voice in the essential conversations law must have about the influence of corporations in the multinational environment,” Dean Risa Goluboff said. “It’s my great pleasure to welcome him to the faculty.”

In a way, Butler said, his work is a study in world peace.

“We tend to think that one of international law’s real benefits is its ability to allow parties that have a dispute to solve it peacefully, even if not always entirely satisfactorily,” Butler said. “And I think one of the things that attracted me to international law is that it’s very much in flux. So being able to participate in a project that is unfinished, as opposed to just sort of gilding something that has been effectively done for some time, is appealing. I feel a sense of activism toward peace as a value for human flourishing.”

His recent articles include “Corporate Commitment to International Law” (2021) for the New York University Journal of International Law & Politics, “The Corporate Keepers of International Law” (2020) for the American Journal of International Law, and “Corporations as Semi-States” (2019) for the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law.

“Corporate Keepers” was selected for the 2019 Yale/Harvard/Stanford Junior Faculty Forum. The paper examines the business of international law enforcement and grapples with the potential of corporations to serve as keepers of international law.

In 2018, Butler won the Lieber Prize from the American Society of International Law for his paper “Amnesty for Even the Worst Offenders,” and later that year, was chosen as a fellow in the Law and Public Affairs Program at Princeton University.

He said his scholarship has been informed by his eclectic experiences. Born and raised in Bermuda, Butler’s country of origin is relatively small yet cosmopolitan.

“I grew up in a household where the BBC World Service was always on,” he said. “When a place is small, one has to care about the outside world.”

He earned his bachelor’s in history, magna cum laude with highest honors, from Harvard University and went on to earn a bachelor’s in jurisprudence from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He earned his J.D. from Yale Law School and is a member of the New York bar.

After law school, he served as a clerk to Judges Hisashi Owada and Giorgio Gaja of the International Court of Justice and worked as a legal adviser to the government of Japan.

Drawing from that experience, he reflected that, “Understanding the adjudicative process as well as the litigation process was really informative for my take on international law and its application. It fostered a degree of creativity in utilizing international law methods to solve problems.”

Professor George S. Geis, director of the John W. Glynn, Jr. Law & Business Program, said Butler’s work is both novel and timely, and he looks forward to Butler’s upcoming contributions to the law faculty.

“We are extremely excited to have Jay Butler join our faculty,” Geis said. “His groundbreaking work explores connections between corporate behavior and international law to shed new light on both fields. This is especially important in today’s economy — as new questions arise about the optimal role and scope of corporate behavior in a global market.”

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