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International Programs at Whittier Law School Gain Momentum with New Center

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The center serves another important, yet more ephemeral function: it is a touchstone that faculty and students can refer to in order to lend their projects and ideas more clout, both within and outside Whittier's walls.

The center's clout was built up considerably last month as Whittier and CICL hosted the "International Law Weekend—West." This was the third such conference on the west coast, and it is held biannually under the auspices of the American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA).

Bringing the conference to Whittier was one of the first goals of the center's director, Hari Osofsky, when she came on board with the center's launch in 2003. "I really appreciate the vote of confidence" from ABILA in choosing Whittier to host the conference, says Osofsky, also an Assistant Professor of Law at Whittier.

The conference, which brought in international law experts from around the country to speak on innovations in the field, was a "major opportunity for the center in many ways," says Osofsky. The conference gathered highly interesting people to the school to speak on panels, says Osofsky. Both panelists and conference attendees were able to learn about and be engaged in Whittier Law's international program.

It is a program that is varied, diverse, and growing. There is an international law certificate which requires law students to take a set roster of classes and participate in CICL programs. Among center programs are a colloquia series on international law, internships, and externships. Then there are several study-abroad programs, with opportunities for students to study law in France, Spain, Australia, and Israel, with programs in China and the Netherlands planned.

Laurie Romero, a second-year law student at Whittier, is working towards her international law certificate and was one of the many students who participated in the recent conference. The CICL "gives a good comparative look at other legal systems," says Romero, whose primary interest now is international corporate law. As multinational corporations grow, says Romero, compliance issues are becoming more important in private industry. There was a panel on corporate compliance at the conference, says Romero. About 94 students attended the conference, with 40 more volunteering and attending panels.

Professor Peter Reich teaches domestic environmental law at Whittier and is also the Managing Editor of the peer-reviewed Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy. Whittier students edit submissions to the journal and can write short notes for publication. Working on the journal is a "great opportunity for students interested in international environmental law," says Reich.

Reich also led Whittier's program in Spain in 2003. Students in that program studied a wide range of international legal topics, including international family law, international negotiation, and international environmental law, with a focus on European Union cooperation on environmental policies.

Whittier's study-abroad programs, says Reich, all try to integrate scholarly research with hands-on experience. For example, in Spain, students went on field trips illustrating the legal precepts students were studying. One trip was to the Santona Marshes, which was the subject of litigation between the government and private owners over conservation concerns. The trip was led by a guide from Spain's Environment Ministry. Students could "read a case, and then see it," says Reich.

Whittier Law is also breaking new ground with its programs in Israel and the Netherlands. The school's Israel program is the only one in that country currently being run by a U.S. law school, says Reich. "It has become very popular," he says, with 20 students going on the first program there last year.

And, starting this summer, John Heliman, a Whittier Law faculty member who is also currently mayor of West Hollywood, CA, will lead a two-week program in Amsterdam on gay-rights law. The international program has generated a great deal of interest among law students.

Whittier Law is "very open to these programs," says Reich, with a policy of receptiveness to faculty ideas for programs that benefit students—a policy that also led to the formation of the CICL.

The benefits of the center are threefold, says Reich. The center has raised the profile of the law school, giving a strong regional law school a larger national and international profile. Also, it has helped to inform both students and faculty members through different applications of their legal study—bringing international comparative aspects, for example, to even domestic legal fields such as family law. And, the center's library has brought in more international materials to strengthen the program, such as a set of case decisions and maps on Mexican-U.S. land cases from the turn of the 20th Century.

The CICL at Whittier Law provides, most of all, "a justification and legitimatization for all these international activities," says Reich.

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