May 29, 2008

Former Cornell President Jeffrey Lehman named chancellor and founding dean of China law school

Jeffrey S. Lehman '77, president of Cornell from 2003-05 and now a professor of law at Cornell Law School, has been named chancellor and founding dean of the first American-style law school in China.

The School of Transnational Law at Peking University's campus in the mainland city of Shenzhen, just north of Hong Kong, will enroll its first class of 55 students this fall. According to Lehman the new law school plans to seek accreditation from the American Bar Association so that graduates can take the New York state bar exam.

Lehman previously was dean of the University of Michigan Law School. He is now a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

The School of Transnational Law will offer the same three-year J.D. graduate program as American law schools, focusing on common law and judicial reasoning. Since multinational firms seek out students with J.D. degrees, many students from China -- which has about 600 law schools -- pursue a U.S. legal education. The school is intended to fill a need in China to offer a legal education that is comparable to that in the United States.

In a May 21 talk at the Wilson Center, Lehman said he hopes that the legal education offered at the School of Transnational Law will prepare graduates to strengthen China's rule of law and its institutions.

The new law school will offer all its courses in English, teach cases from the United States and use professors from American law schools to teach most of its courses. The school will operate independently of Peking University's existing Chinese-style law school.

The new school will largely be subsidized, said Lehman, by Peking's executive MBA program and by a grant from the Starr Foundation.