SUNY Buffalo Law School strategizes for worldwide impact

Students participating in our current LL.M. and visiting scholars program.

Published April 12, 2013

“The Law School has long maintained a global presence. In the coming years we plan to expand our footprint significantly in the international arena. As New York State’s public law school, we are well positioned to lead.”
Makau W. Mutua, Dean
SUNY Buffalo Law School

The State of New York’s leading public Law School is embarking on an ambitious set of initiatives to establish itself as an international institution.

Under the guidance of Dean Makau W. Mutua and Professor David A. Westbrook, SUNY Buffalo Law School’s newly appointed director of global strategic initiatives, the Law School is now planning to coordinate and build on existing international engagements, and to institute some major new programs that address an increasingly international legal marketplace, and that are designed to appeal to students around the world.  

“The Law School has long maintained a global presence. In the coming years we plan to expand our footprint significantly in the international arena. As New York State’s public law school, we are well positioned to lead,” says Mutua.  

Chief among the new initiatives is the introduction of an accelerated J.D. program for students from outside the United States who already hold a first law degree. The program, expected to begin this fall semester, is expected to attract highly qualified students who are proficient in English and who wish to sit for the New York State Bar exam. They will be given advanced standing, meaning that they can earn the J.D. degree in two years instead of the traditional three.

“New York law is exceedingly important,” Westbrook says. “It is practiced all over the world. Along with that, New York City is not just the center of financial markets and consequently law, it is also a place for the lawful settlement of disputes, both in courts and through arbitration, from all over the globe. And, of course, the United Nations is in New York, as is the New York branch of the Federal Reserve, which manages the world’s primary reserve currency.

“Taking all this together, New York law, both in the narrow sense of transactional practice and the larger sense of legal culture, is at the heart of global law.”

The new J.D. program complements the two master of laws programs currently offered – the general LL.M. and the LL.M. in criminal law – which are also designed for international students. The LL.M. in criminal law will be strengthened when Professor Luis Chiesa, an internationally known criminal law scholar with extensive experience in Spain and Latin America, joins the faculty next year.

Also in the planning stages in this move toward a global presence for SUNY Buffalo Law:

  • Expansion of the school’s successful New York City Program in Finance and Law, in which students spend a semester studying sophisticated transactional law with dedicated faculty and practitioners from major firms, corporations and financial institutions. Under consideration is expansion of the program into the areas of commercial dispute settlement and public international law. Also being considered is establishing a curriculum in Washington, D.C., that would complement the New York City program.
  • Reinvigoration of the Canada-U.S. Legal Studies Centre under its new director, Professor Meredith Lewis. The center will take educational advantage of Buffalo’s location on the Canadian border, which creates cross-border legal practices, such as international trade and immigration, in which students can explore in the real world.
  • Reinforcing the school’s relationships with other universities worldwide and seeking to establish others. SUNY Buffalo Law already has student exchange relationships with law schools in Barcelona and Glasgow. In addition, Professor David Engel takes a group of law students to Chiang Mai, Thailand, each January during the bridge term, where they learn about Thai legal culture and share ideas about U.S. legal culture with members of the Chiang Mai academic community.
  • Working with the New York State Bar Association’s International Law Section to expand a program that places SUNY Buffalo Law students in legal internships worldwide. The Bar Association also wants to establish a student chapter of the International Law Section at the Law School.
  • Encouraging junior faculty to speak, teach and collaborate internationally. The highly successful fellowship program of the Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy brings talented scholars, many with international experience, to the Law School to research, teach and engage in informal networking. In the past several years, the law school has hosted visiting scholars from Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Turkey and Zimbabwe. The center expects to establish more fellowship programs as well, and down the road would like to establish a Ph.D. program.