Events Worldwide Mark Law School's 150th


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James O’Neill
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January 10, 2008 (NEW YORK) – A luncheon that honors former deans at the Waldorf in New York. A London forum on global law. Alumni events in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. These are among the highlights in a year’s worth of events to mark the 150th anniversary of Columbia Law School.
The second half of the 2007-08 academic year will be punctuated by a number of these celebratory events, as the Law School recognizes the invaluable example and direction set by its prior leaders, faculty and students, while continuing to mold and shape the legal profession’s future scholars and leaders.
``It is worth reflecting on how central our Law School has been in grappling with the great issues of our time,’’ said Dean David Schizer. ``We are proud of our tradition of engagement with these questions, and this tradition continues today. We celebrate not only what our Law School has achieved in the past 150 years, but what we will achieve in the next 150 years and beyond.’’
Columbia Law School, established in 1858, has been a driving force in the changes that have improved legal teaching and scholarship since its inception. ``The school’s long history is a tale of leadership through dynamic – even turbulent – times,’’ Dean Schizer told first year law students during his welcoming address in the fall. ``Just as Columbia Law School has helped to define the world of the present, so too will it help to define the world of the future – through all of you.’’
Here is a rundown of the events that will celebrate Columbia Law School’s 150 years of legal leadership. For a timeline of highlights that marked Columbia Law School’s initial 150 years, click here.
China Events
The Law School will hold a series of events in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing in January that will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Law School’s Center for Chinese Legal Studies, led by Professor Benjamin Liebman, as well as the Law School’s Sesquicentennial.
First up is the Hong Kong event, January 11, 2008, a cocktail reception with Prof. Liebman and R. Randle Edwards, Walter Gellhorn Professor Emeritus of Law and the Center’s first director, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Next, on January 12, 2008, Profs. Liebman and Edwards host an evening of conversation and dinner at the Pudong Shangri-La Hotel in Shanghai.
On January 14, 2008, Dean Schizer will host a symposium and reception at the Raffles Beijing Hotel. Prof. Liebman will moderate a panel titled ``Justice in the Public Interest: New Challenges for Courts and Lawyers.’’ Panelists will include Phyllis Chang ’88, president of CLD Consultants; Tong Lihua, director of Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center and Beijing Legal Aid Office for Rural Migrants; the Hon. Li Xiao of the Supreme People’s Court of China; and Chen Zexian, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for International Law Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
 A second panel, titled ``China Invests in the World: Legal Implications of Chinese Investment Overseas,’’ will be moderated by Henry Ding ’92, a partner with Sidley Austin LLP. Panelists include George Davidson ’75, managing director of HSBC; Charles Li ’91, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase China; and Jon Christianson ’88, a partner with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LPP.
Tokyo Reception
On January 16, 2008, Dean David Schizer will host an invitation-only cocktail reception in Tokyo to celebrate Columbia Law School’s longstanding partnership with Japan. The Law School’s leadership in Japanese law is embodied in the work of The Center for Japanese Legal Studies, founded in 1980 with support from the Fuyo Group and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission. The Center continues its mission today under the direction of Professor Curtis Milhaupt, who will also attend the reception, in the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. Milhaupt, a leading authority on the legal system of Japan, has a forthcoming book with Columbia Law School colleague Katharina Pistor, Law and Capitalism.
Waldorf Winter Luncheon
On January 25, 2008, the 59th annual Winter Luncheon for alumni will mark the domestic start of a year of Sesquicentennial events. The luncheon, to be held in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, will honor the six living former deans of Columbia Law School: David Leebron (1996-2004), Lance Liebman (1991-1996), Barbara Aronstein Black (1986-1991), Benno Schmidt (1984-1986), Albert Rosenthal (1979-1984) and Michael Sovern (1970-1979). The event will also be an opportunity to honor all alumni who are currently serving as judges.
The luncheon will also be an occasion to honor H.F. ``Gerry’’ Lenfest ’58, who has given $33 million to the Law School over the years, including more than $15 million to help pay for Lenfest Hall, the Law School’s premier residence hall, which opened in 1993. Lenfest will receive the Medal for Excellence, awarded by the Law School each year to a graduate or faculty member.
Supreme Court Dinner
On January 31, 2008, an invitation-only black tie alumni dinner will be hosted by U.S. Supreme Court Justice and former Columbia Law School professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59 to celebrate the Law School’s Sesquicentennial. The attendees will gather under the 44-foot ceiling and amid the 24 Italian marble columns of the Great Hall in the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Dean Schizer, who clerked for Justice Ginsberg in 1994 and 1995, will speak.
Dinner at Morgan Library to Honor Alumni Judges
On February 28, 2008, the Law School will host an evening at the Morgan Library & Museum to honor 150 years of Columbia Law School alumni serving at all levels of the judiciary, including four Supreme Court justices. The dinner and program includes a speech by Thomas W. Merrill, Columbia Law School’s Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law and an expert on property, environmental and administrative law, as well as eminent domain and the U.S. Supreme Court. Dean Schizer will offer opening remarks.
Reunion Event in London
From October 17 to 19,2008, a series of reunion events will be held in London to emphasize the Law School’s global reach and focus and will supplement the regular annual reunion events held each year on the Morningside Heights campus. The events will kick off with a welcoming reception that Friday evening at the historic Spencer House. Next will be an academic program and speakers focusing on international legal issues at the Hotel Intercontinental. The weekend will end with a gala celebration at London’s Banqueting House, a historic royal palace designed by Inigo Jones and dating from 1622.
Concluding Gala in New York
On October 25, 2008, the Law School will conclude its Sesquicentennial with a celebratory dinner at the Cipriani on 42nd Street in New York. The event will be developed with faculty participation to highlight the school’s history, its impact on the legal profession domestically and globally, its current mission and future goals. Justice Ginsburg is scheduled to attend.
Some events are still in planning stages, and details will follow as the year of celebration progresses. To find out more and keep track of upcoming events, check the Law School alumni page at
About Columbia Law School’s Founding:
As early as 1794, a course on law had been taught at Columbia College by James Kent, author of the renowned Kent Commentaries. However, in the first half of the 19th century, law was learned chiefly through an apprenticeship system rather than in schools.
The Law School was founded Nov. 1, 1858, and Theodore Dwight, then 33, became the School’s first warden, an earlier name for the dean. Dwight started a mode of teaching known as the “Dwight Method.” Office apprenticeship, he argued, left men with an uneven jumble of isolated legal rules. His method provided students with a systematic view of law as a whole, after which students possessed a framework to interpret the law.
Even as he oversaw the growth of the Law School, Dwight found time for the kind of public spirited work he urged on his students. In 1866 he served on a committee that offered reforms for the New York State prison system. In 1867 Dwight became one of the most influential members of the New York State Constitutional Convention. In the early 1870s, he was part of the Committee of Seventy which worked to throw out the corrupt Tweed Ring which dominated New York City politics at the time. He also helped organize the State Charities Aid Association.
Dwight’s own involvement with public interest legal work has inspired Columbia Law School’s mission ever since. Today, the Law School gives back to the community through its wide array of clinics and centers. Clinic offerings, for instance, give student a chance to make a real difference by working with clients in such areas as child advocacy, environmental law, human rights, mediation, and gender law.
About Columbia Law School’s Alumni:
Since its founding, Columbia Law School has produced an illustrious honor roll of alumni who have profoundly affected their chosen fields, including politics, the judiciary, diplomacy, legal scholarship, the entertainment and media industries, and more. The list of alumni includes:
Politicians and statesmen, such as former U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, South Korean ambassador to the United Nations Kim Hyun-chong, former New York governors Thomas E. Dewey and George Pataki, and many other U.S. governors, senators, congressmen and mayors;
U.S. Supreme Court justices, including Harlan Fiske Stone, Charles Evans Hughes, William O. Douglas, Benjamin Nathan Cardozo, Stanley Foreman Reed and Ruth Bader Ginsburg;
Business leaders and philanthropists, such as William Waldorf Astor, former Standard Oil Company President Henry Clay Folger, Wal-Mart chairman S. Robson Walton, Home Depot CEO Frank Blake;
Writers and agents, such as legal thriller writer Brad Meltzer and literary agent Morton Janklow;
Sports and entertainment titans, including NBA commissioner David Stern, New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner and Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner;
Activists, such as World Wildlife Fund founder Russell E. Train, civil rights activist and performer Paul Robeson, and Li Lu, a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests in China;
Educators, including Columbia University presidents Michael I. Sovern and Lee Bollinger, and American Museum of Natural History President Ellen Futter.
After 150 years, Columbia Law School remains at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, and criminal law. The Law School offers J.D., J.S.D. and LL.M. degree programs to a diverse student body.