By Dean Jeremy Paul
For many Americans raised in the glow of the post-War boom, the idea of living overseas for longer than a year seemed off-putting, if not downright unthinkable. Our country offered average citizens the promise of unrivalled freedom, boundless economic opportunity, a stable rule of law, great natural beauty, and conveniences and security previously unmatched in human history. Of course, not every American had equal access to these precious resources, but conventional wisdom labeled our problems insignificant compared to those confronting other nations.
Today’s law students should not let baby boomer parochialism deter you from exploring what the world has to offer. Of course, the United States still leads the world, and we may rightly take pride in our inspirational political and legal institutions. Nor should those of us who love living in Connecticut ever be surprised when any graduate chooses to do so. But when it comes to a monopoly on economic opportunity or the conveniences of modern life, the times they are a changing.
I have just returned from visiting UConn Law School graduates building successful careers and fulfilling lives in seemingly unlikely places. From London to Hong Kong, from Beijing to Madrid, from Istanbul to Costa Rica, those who learned law in Connecticut are now law firm partners, judges, business persons and professors. Your legal training might open similar doors, and our many exchange programs offer a chance to discover whether living abroad might interest you. More important, learning about another culture will make you a better lawyer even if you never again leave the United States.
This was not my first official trip abroad. In 2007 I visited our colleagues at the Free University of Berlin, and later traveled to Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, where we launched an exchange program. At the Berlin reunion, and at this month’s London reunion, thanks to the good offices of Professor Mark Janis and the tireless efforts of Blanche Capilos, I conversed with many graduates now working in Europe. Connecticut Journal of International Law students were also in London and earned congratulations for a New Voices discussion at which students shared their work with a diverse, well-educated audience.
But it was during eight days in China that the spread of economic success and the universalism of modern technology most clearly hit home. Opportunities for lawyers to play a part in spearheading international commerce are perhaps greater in no other nation. If Superman were invented today, his tagline would be “faster than a speeding Chinese bullet train, more powerful than the yuan, and able to leap Shanghai skyscrapers in a single bound.” Of course, China continues to struggle with issues of free expression and with serious problems concerning air and water quality. But America too had challenges even during the post-War heyday.
While in China, thanks to our marvelous ambassador Yan Hong, I visited five law schools and courted students who might join us in coming years. I urge each of you to consider studying in another country, to master a foreign language, and to take some classes focused on international law. If the U.S. wishes to continue its world leadership, your talents on the global stage are needed.