The Role of U.S. Law Faculty in Developing Countries: Striving for Effective Cross-Cultural Collaboration

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2008




New York University School of Law




This article focuses on one of the key ways in which the trend toward globalization and the creation of a more integrated world has manifested itself in the legal education community: the increased number of visits by U.S. lawyers and law professors to overseas law schools. Because a large number of those consultants have come from the clinical law community, specific attention is paid to the efforts of clinicians both in broad based projects in Iraq, China, and Russia as well as smaller scale ones in other parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.

The article's starting point is to contrast recent efforts with those forty years ago during the "Law and Development Movement," an era which has been severely criticized because the American experts who visited foreign countries then did not familiarize themselves with the local systems and practices and instead primarily tried to recreate the way justice was administered and law was taught in the U.S. The failure of those efforts demonstrated the need to adopt a different approach. The data reviewed for this article indicates that to successfully support the implementation of positive reforms in other countries, the methodology needs to be more collaborative.

The article therefore concludes that, in practical terms, both U.S. funders and the consultants they support need to involve colleagues from the host country from the outset in establishing the purpose and the goals for projects. Further, the overseas visitors must thoroughly immerse themselves in the local context and culture early in the process and then maintain a high level of collaboration throughout all phases to insure that the reforms they recommend can work in the local context. Finally, particular attention should be paid prior to and during the collaboration to factors that will help sustain the reforms after the formal consultation has ended.

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