September 1, 2010

Committee News: International Issues Committee Forms Speakers’ Bureau

By Denis T. Rice

One of the most stimulating and rewarding experiences for a senior lawyer is teaching short courses or seminars overseas at foreign law schools or to foreign bar groups. I’ve been lucky enough to have two “gigs” at law schools in a program sponsored by the Center for International Legal Studies,, in Salzburg, Austria, and to teach current developments in American law to members of the Philippine Bar Association in Manila. 

The latter gig was under the auspices of the ABA-Asia Law Initiative, I also taught a two-week course in cyberspace law and intellectual property to the Supreme Court Justices of Nepal in 2003, sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme,

The first seminar I taught was at the University of Warsaw Law School on the subject “American Business,  Entrepreneurship and E-Commerce Law.” All the students spoke English, and almost all were very computer-savvy. They were surprised to be in a class where student participation was required, as it is in virtually all American law schools but generally not in Europe. They also enjoyed optional evening sessions when I would order pizzas and soft drinks and show American movies involving jury trials and cross-examination, such as Anatomy of a Murder and To Kill a Mockingbird.

I had them report on significant cases ranging from the Van Gorkom case in Delaware dealing with directors’ duties to cases arising under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The students also had to put together a term sheet and business plan for a hypothetical Internet start-up company.

Between sessions, my wife accompanied me around the historical parts of Warsaw, and on extended weekends we took trips to the beautiful city of Krakow and the bustling and unique city of Wroclaw. The Poles are wonderful people and warm hosts.

The second seminar was on the same topic and taught at the Pomorsky State University Law School in Russia. The experience with the brightest of these students was wonderful, and several of them accompanied my wife and me on weekend trips to caves in the northern forest and to the Gulag Archipelago. One girl who was perhaps the outstanding member of the class much later wrote me from Moscow (when she was working at the office of the international firm Lovells) and expressed great appreciation for my teaching— which to me was a great reward!

Opportunities abound for senior lawyers who want to use their experience and wisdom to share with law students and professionals around the world. They can have the stimulation of teaching to students who are unfamiliar with the common law and American jury system but have an insatiable thirst to know. At the same time, they can learn about the rich heritages of countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, and elsewhere.

So I can say to all you senior lawyers: Don’t hesitate to try your hand giving others the benefit of your valuable experience!

Denis T. Rice, a founding  diretor of the Howard Rice firm in San Francisco, is chair of our newly constituted International Speakers’ Bureau as one responsibility as vice-chair of the International Issues Committee. He will be bring together on our website and listserv information on opportunities for senior lawyers to speak here and abroad in venues such as foreign bar associations, seminars or short courses at foreign law schools, and meetings on international issues. Following is a brief reprise of some of his experiences in this kind of activity over the past several years.