Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Nuno Garoupa on the difference between US and European law schools
There are many differences between American and European law schools. In fact, so many people have written about this topic that there is hardly one difference that has not been identified by now. Having worked on both sides of the Atlantic, the main difference that never ceases to amaze me is how American elite law schools have been transformed into a micro-universe of social sciences. Most of my colleagues are economists, sociologists, philosophers, historians, psychologists, political scientists, anthropologists. Naturally this has significant implications for the type of research we do in the law school (where doctrinal work is less and less popular), for the type of professional norms we develop in the law school (with most faculty in residence throughout the day), and even for how the law is taught to students. Such environment cannot be reproduced in Europe (with some minor innovative projects here and there) because diversity and interdisciplinary dialogue are not appreciated. There are plenty of more or less sophisticated arguments in Europe to oppose such move. However, the obvious consequence is that European law schools cannot provide the intellectually stimulating environment that one finds in elite law schools in America. It is of no surprise that SJD degrees are now massively populated by Europeans who use that as an entry door into the job market of American law schools (something the Israelis have been doing for more than a decade). It is also of no surprise that Latin Americans and Asians now look to the elite law schools in America as the leading legal teaching and research institutions. The exponential increase of LLMs and SJDs from these areas of the world in the top American law schools is amazing. Unfortunately, most European law schools have been unable to react to change and competition. In many case they lack the resources, in most cases they lack the will.