William and Mary Law School

Program in Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

More than 93 percent of the world's citizens live in legal systems that are not purely common law. Preparing the next generation of lawyers to perform competently in our increasingly globalized world requires innovative courses and research, as well as concrete field experience.

The Program in Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding meets this challenge head-on. Our students take international and comparative law courses, intern in legal systems that are emerging and developing, and send their research to assist policy makers in countries where people struggle to recover from poverty, colonization, and conflict. Our faculty produce cutting-edge scholarship on legal issues that transcend national borders. Our distinguished speakers bring reality into the classroom.

WHO WE ARE

Our faculty: Recognized experts in International and Comparative Law, Law and Development, International Business Transactions, International Institutions, International Criminal Law, European Union Law, Post-Conflict Justice, and Immigration Law, are available to research, analyze, and provide guidance on emerging and cutting-edge issues at the heart of legal reform. Faculty members regularly provide advice to United States, European Union, and United Nations agencies and policy makers, as well as international tribunals, and produce cutting-edge scholarship on emerging topics of international importance.

William & Mary: Recognizing that recovering from conflict and building peace requires more than just law, our work is inter-disciplinary. We take advantage of expertise available throughout the William & Mary campus, including in the Departments of Anthropology, Religion, Political Science, Languages, and Government. One past research project, for example, investigated alternative institutions such as churches that might support community-based reform efforts in Haiti in the absence of a functioning legal system.

Our Partners: We maintain collaborative working relationships with prestigious institutions around the world–including the United States Institute of Peace; the National Center for State Courts, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance; the Centre for Political and Constitutional Studies within the Ministry of the Presidency of Spain; the Fondation pour le Droit Continental in France, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy–all of whom share our comparative approach. These partnerships ensure that our work remains broadly comparative, a focus of importance in a world in which fewer than 7% of the population lives under common law monosystems.

Our graduates: Most importantly, our graduates work around the world using the education and training they receive at William and Mary to meet the pressing global challenges facing their generation. Our grads work for the United Nations, the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce, international law firms and a variety of international public and private organizations.

soldiers in burundi

Fort in Afghanistan

Azerbaijan countryside

march in Cambodia

prisoner education

Cambodian family

Bukhara Temple

Burundian dancers

WHAT WE DO 

The Program in Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding bridges the gap between resources available at academic institutions and the need for them in the field, where people engaged in the difficult work of building democracies, strengthening the Rule of Law, and reconstructing societies following conflict often labor without basic resources, including electricity, Internet or research capacity.

In the past, Rule of Law strategies in developing and post-conflict countries have often been modeled after the legal systems and institutions of international aid implementers, resulting in inconsistent or conflicting approaches to legal and judicial reform and little sustainability.  The CLS/PCP Program breaks away from that approach. Using a comparative lens, we work within the major legal systems of the world – including civil code, common law, and Islamic, Asian, customary, and indigenous legal systems – and build strategies that span a broad global legal spectrum. This approach supports sustainable organic peacebuilding efforts that take root locally and are based upon objective, comparative options.

Recognizing that recovering from conflict and building peace requires more than just law, our work is inter-disciplinary. Past projects have taken advantage of expertise available throughout the William & Mary campus, including in the Departments of Anthropology, Religion, Political Science and Government.

Field Support:  Our work compares approaches used in a variety of legal systems and contexts in order to create a broad pool of knowledge of best practices and lessons learned. Our research has supported the work of the United States Institute of Peace, the United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, several international ministries, tribunals and electoral commissions, and Rule of Law practitioners in the field.  Examples of our research, provided to policy makers and practitioners upon request, has included:

  • Comparative Strategies to Support Transitions from Military Dictatorships to Constitutional Democracies (Supporting the Constitutional Commission in Fiji)
  • Use of Customary Law and Non-State Justice Systems
  • Housing, Land, and Property Issues in Post-Conflict States
  • Transitional Justice Strategies for Post-Conflict States
  • Comparative Criminal Law and Procedure (supporting the Ministry of Justice of Haiti and creation of the new Haitian Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure)
    • Public Administration Reform Strategies
    • Comparative Analysis of Past Constitutions of Somalia (Supporting the Constitutional Commission in Somalia)
    • Comparative Strategies for Addressing Corruption
    • Analysis of United Nations-Led Commissions of Inquiry (Supporting the United Nations Department of Political Affairs)
    • International Criminal Law Options for Prosecuting Former Heads of State
    • Forms of Government in Post-Conflict Countries
    • Monitoring, Mentoring, and Advising Justice Actors in Post-Conflict States
    • Constitutional Requirements for Standing for the Office of President (Supporting a United Nations Special Envoy)

United Nations helicopter

Workers commuting in Dubai

Switzerland 

Meeting in India

Temple in Cambodia

Tbilisi, Georgia

Camels in Dunhuang

International Internships:  We value knowledge gained from concrete field experience. Each summer we send 8 to 12 law students who have been thoroughly trained in comparative legal strategies into the field to work in Rule of Law and peacekeeping projects. Internship sites have included Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Dominican Republic, England, Ghana, India, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, and The Hague.

For further information contact Christie S. Warren at cswarr@wm.edu.