CONTACT: TOM SNEE
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Sept. 17, 2002
UI College of Law Ranks High in National Study of Comparative Law Programs
University of Iowa College of Law's comparative law program was recently ranked
as one of the top 15 in the nation in a study by a professor at the University
of California, Berkeley.
In a report published this year in a special supplemental issue of the American
Journal of Comparative Law, Berkeley law professor Ugo Mattei ranked U.S.
law schools on how well they provide students with opportunities to study
comparative law, a discipline that examines differences in legal systems between
countries. John Reitz (left), a professor in the college of law and associate
dean for international and comparative law programs, said UI scored high in
the study for the large number of faculty with comparative and international
law backgrounds, numerous visiting faculty from other countries, a library
well-stocked with books and periodicals about comparative lawincluding
very strong collections in the primary language for French, German and Mexican
lawand, by comparison with most other schools, a substantial opportunity
to take comparative law courses.
The UI College of Law was one of the few that received excellent marks in
the study. Others to finish in the first group of 15 include such schools
as Tulane, Columbia, Illinois, Texas, Louisiana State, Georgetown, Harvard,
Duke, Washington University at St. Louis, Cornell, New York University, Yale,
University of California at Berkeley and Hawaii.
The UI law school was also noted as being one of only a handful of law schools
in the country with at least one full-time professor of comparative law on
the faculty. Iowa has two professors who devote themselves primarily to comparative
law study and teaching; Reitz and Adrien Wing. Several other professors, including
Enrique Carrasco, Marc Linder, Mark Osiel and Mark Sidel, have done substantial
work involving other legal systems.
Reitz said about 20 students take the introductory comparative law class
each fall at the College of Law; generally, about a quarter of them are foreign-trained
lawyers working in their home countries and taking classes through the College
of Law's Master of Law (LLM) program. At least four or five other courses
contain a significant amount of foreign and comparative law content each year.
Such courses have included comparative constitutional law, family law in the
world community, European Union law, law in the Muslim world, cultural property,
philanthropy and the law in American and comparative perspective, social justice,
and comparative criminal law. In addition, Reitz pointed to the courses offered
in the college's summer program at Arcachon, France, and its spring semester
in London. A new exchange program with Bucerius Law School in Hamburg, Germany,
gives students further opportunities for comparative study.
"The richness of these offerings is enormously benefited by the large
number of distinguished foreign visitors who come regularly to teach our students,"
Reitz said. Recent examples include Sir Geoffrey Palmer, a former prime minister
of New Zealand, British barrister Andrew Wyeth, and Austrian Alexander Somek,
as well as summer foreign visitors from Russia, England, New Zealand and Austria.
Reitz said the teaching and study of comparative law is becoming increasingly
important in an age of economic, social, cultural and political globalization.
"Serious legal scholars are looking more and more at the international
aspects of their work, even if they're not internationalists," he said.
"People need to be much more aware of other countries and their legal
systems' effects on their own domestic life. For instance, even a little Iowa
agribusiness might sell seeds internationally, so it needs to know what legal
systems are like in Argentina or Belgium or other countries where its customers
The teaching of comparative and international law has a long history at
the UI College of Law, dating back to its founding in 1866. The college's
first dean was interested in Roman law and in the Roman law basis of the modern
civil law tradition. He had a large personal library of nineteenth century
French and German writing about those subjects, which after his death were
donated to the UI law library, where they became the heart of the comparative
law library (they are still in the library's rare books room today).
In Mattei's article, he praises law schools like UI that make comparative
law a priority while bemoaning the fact that so few U.S. law schools have
comparative law studies programs. He contends such lack of access to comparative
law study breeds parochialism in U.S.-trained lawyers, which has been strengthened
by U.S. hegemony in the world. But political and cultural hegemony is a fragile
thing, and he contends those lawyers trained at schools with excellent comparative
law programs will have a broader view of the law and a greater understanding
of international legal issues that will better enable them to cope with a