Columbia Journal of Transnational Law Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary
Publication with Global Readership Has Showcased the Work of Generations of International Law Scholars
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New York, Nov. 4, 2011—The Columbia Journal of Transnational Law (JTL), founded in 1961, has showcased the work of generations of international law scholars over the past 50 years. On November 10, students, professors, and journal alumni will celebrate the publication’s 50th anniversary at a reception in the New York City office of Mayer Brown.
The JTL, founded by the late Columbia Law School Professor Wolfgang Friedmann in 1961, now has more than 1,000 subscribers, one-third of whom live outside the U.S. in more than 60 countries.
“The journal finds itself stronger than ever,” says Douglas Doetsch ’86, a corporate finance partner in the Chicago office of Mayer Brown and a former editor-in-chief of the JTL. “There has been a proliferation of international law journals over the last 50 years. We are one of the oldest and have the strongest track record—and we intend to keep it that way.”
Just what is transnational law? JTL editors prefer the definition offered by the late Columbia Law School Professor Philip C. Jessup ’24 , who wrote that transnational law includes “all law which regulates actions or events that transcend national frontiers,” including civil and criminal, public and private, national and international.
“Practicing transnational law requires the same skill set as domestic law,” says the JTL’s current editor-in-chief, Jacob Johnston. “But the fact patterns are much more interesting. You’re dealing with world history.”
The growth of international law has been astounding in the last decade, according to Mark Shulman ’99, an assistant dean and adjunct professor at Pace University School of Law and a former editor-in-chief of the JTL who has served on the journal’s board of directors since 1998.
“In the last decade, the international tribunals have delivered a robust jurisprudence and spawned a generation of lawyers skilled at the practice,” Shulman says, adding that the JTL has played an important part in developing and promoting the substance and understanding of transnational law.
The most visible change in the past 50 years is the growth of the publication, according to Johnston.
“We publish more issues now,” he says. “In the early years, it took three years to do two issues, and now we publish three a year. In 1961, there were five students on staff and now there are 75. It reflects the growth of the institution and of transnational law.”
The JTL provides a platform for what Johnston calls “the incredible wealth of knowledge” that resides at the Law School. Throughout the history of the journal, Columbia Law School has been able to attract first-tier international legal scholars, and the school’s ongoing success in hiring top scholars has kept the journal vibrant, according to Doetsch, who sits on the board of directors. In addition to contributing articles, many of the school’s international law faculty act as advisers to the journal’s editors and directors.
In recent years, contributors have covered a wide range of subjects: Professor Matthew Waxman co-wrote an article analyzing alternative models for the use of classified evidence in terrorist detention hearings; Professor Richard Gardner contributed an article assessing the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade as a model for international economic cooperation; and Catharine MacKinnon, who teaches at the University of Michigan Law School, contributed an essay analyzing international definitions of rape.
Waxman is an associate professor of law and the faculty co-chair of the Roger Hertog Program on Law and National Security. Gardner is a professor of law and international organization.
Thanks to an independent board of directors that closely monitors the journal’s management and finances, it has remained stable over the years, according to Shulman. It is run like a corporate board, according to P. Nicholas Kourides ’71, deputy general counsel of American International Group, Inc., and a former editor-in-chief of the JTL who has served on the journal’s board of directors since 1977.
“We don’t rely on the Law School for funds, and we have been successful selling subscriptions to the journal and soliciting donations from journal alumni,” Kourides says. “There is also a lot of synergy between the journal and large law firms—the journal gets financial support for the annual Friedmann award banquet, and the firms get recognized for their contribution and are invited to career panels at the Law School.”
Every year in the spring, the journal presents the Wolfgang Friedmann Memorial Award to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the field of international law. The board of directors helps raise money for the award banquet, with the goal of inviting a large number of students.
The Friedmann award has honored both legal scholars and practitioners such as George Mitchell, the former U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace, and Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the former secretary-general of the United Nations.
The JTL and its board of directors are committed to recognizing practitioners, because they are the ones who transform the theories into day-to-day practice, according to Kourides.
“Only when theory and concepts have been implemented through multilateral treaties and the courts will we know how effective the rule of law is,” he says.
That ability to create synergies—between students and faculty, the Law School and law firms, New York and the world—is a journal tradition and a recipe for its ongoing success.
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