The Peking University School of Transnational Law (“STL”) is the first of China’s more than 600 law schools to prepare its students to receive a Juris Doctor (“J.D.”) degree (in Chinese, they will receive a Fa Liu Shuo Shi), using a curriculum that was designed by reference to the curriculum used in American law schools.
Why has Beida created such a program at this time? Because over the past decade, the processes of globalization have led to the emergence of a new kind of lawyer, one whose work is oriented towards representing clients that conduct activities internationally. To prepare students for that kind of work, many countries in Asia and Europe have recently begun to establish J.D. programs.
Unlike other forms of legal education, the J.D. program places its highest value on the mastery of certain intellectual skills, rather than the mastery of a particular body of knowledge. Those skills include an ability to see all sides of an issue, an ability to connect legal rules with underlying values and policies, an ability to recognize the ways in which law evolves over time, and an ability to reconcile potentially inconsistent principles of law that have been generated by different sources of sovereign authority. The student must be able to demonstrate these abilities fluently in English, the language of transnational legal practice.
At the same time, students in the J.D. program will also be expected to master certain bodies of legal rules. STL will place special emphasis on the doctrinal rules that have the greatest impact on transnational activities originating in China, and also on the doctrinal rules that have their origins in the common law.
To develop these skills, the program will make extensive use of the so-called Socratic method of teaching. This method will be supplemented by a rigorous Legal Practice Program (with intensive training in legal research, legal writing, and legal English), by programs of clinical education, and by thesis writing.
As with other academic programs on the Shenzhen campus, the academic calendar will consist of six six-week blocks from early September through mid-July. In each six-week block, students will typically take two 3-credit courses, each of which will meet five days per week and will culminate in a written examination.
STL has recruited Jeffrey S. Lehman to serve as the Chancellor and Founding Dean of STL. Chancellor Lehman is recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on legal education. He is Professor of Law and Former President of Cornell University. In the past he has served as the Dean of the University of Michigan Law School and as President of the American Law Deans Association. He holds an honorary doctorate degree from Peking University, along with several honorary professorships in China.