How Did I End Up Teaching Law in Russia?

Practicing attorneys receive periodic emails and faxes from an organization which until recently was somewhat mysterious to me: The Center for International Legal Studies which is run by Professor Dennis Campbell from Salzburg, Austria,  The Center has operated for over thirty years on a non-profit basis and sponsors academic exchange programs.  It cooperates with a variety of universities in the West, including notably Suffolk University Law School here in Boston.

CILS matches lawyers with accredited Eastern European faculties, including those in the former Republics of the Soviet Union.  Senior lawyers in all fields are invited to teach for periods of two to six weeks, after taking a week of training at CILS in Salzburg.

So in April of 2010 I found myself sufficiently intrigued to apply to the Center for an appointment.  The task is somewhat daunting; you submit your application, resume, writing samples, and a couple of recommendation letters (I haven’t had to get those since I was graduating law school).  You must undertake to pay your own fare, pay CILS for the training session, and pay your way also at the University to which you are assigned.  There followed an interview process (Professor Campbell comes to the United States, travels around and meets with us “senior” lawyers).

In June I was pleased to be accepted into the program, and was assigned to serve as Visiting Professor during the Spring of 2011 at Belgorod State University in Southwestern Russia.

I will blog shortly about what I have been able to learn about Belgorod, at least preliminarily.  This is a part of Russia with which I have no familiarity, nor did I visit in this area during my one prior trip to the then USSR in the late 1970s.  I had indeed asked not to be posted to the major Eastern cities (which I had previously visited), although I am not sure I was quite prepared to be posted to Belgorod.  More about that later.

Introduction: Teaching US Law in Russia

In March, 2011, after a week of training in Salzburg, Austria, I will travel to the University of Belgorod in Southwestern Russia to teach law students, and perhaps business students, about American business law.

The trip is under the auspice of the non-profit organization Center for International Legal Studies based in Salzburg, Austria.  My role is to convey to university students, training to be Russian lawyers, fundamental elements of our legal system which I hope would percolate into the fabric of Russian business and law.

I am under no illusion that my modest effort will save the world.  However, I believe that cumulatively, if we expose the best in Western business law to emerging former Soviet Bloc economies, we will move towards better communication and more peaceful co-existence.  An integrated worldwide business community, with understandable communication among countries, companies and business people, I believe can create part of the basis for a more peaceful, and successful world.

I am launching this blog for two reasons:

  • First and foremost, to solicit a broad base of information.  What is it that someone with my intentions should be teaching would-be Russian lawyers?  What is most needed?  What is most important?  What is fundamental?  What is counterproductive and should be avoided?  What can in fact be successfully understood and integrated into existing Russian business law?
  • My second purpose is to share with colleagues, clients, friends and fellow teachers the problems, successes and (no doubt) failures of this undertaking, in the hopes that it will be both interesting and ultimately edifying.