Most have probably seen “The Sound of Music” at some point in time in their lives. The musical features beautiful views of Salzburg, Austria, and the surrounding Alps. If teaching international law is your bent, then the mandatory week-long orientation in Salzburg, in the castle where “The Sound of Music” was filmed, will probably be part of the agenda. Many gorgeous old castles and palaces are used as conference centers to prepare students for teaching assignments with the Center for International Legal Studies (CILS). CILS places experienced commonlaw practitioners in visiting professorships (with terms ranging from 2-6 weeks) at institutions in Eastern Europe and countries of the former Soviet Union. Visiting professors range in age and experience, so if you are a recent graduate or a more seasoned professional, opportunities exist for a position with CILS.
Pepper Hamilton LLP recently hosted the Philadelphia Bar Association’s International Law Committee for a presentation by Karen Porter, a 1974 graduate of Northeastern University School of Law, who is a permanent visiting professor of law at the Pericles Law Center in Moscow, Russia (www.pericles.ru), and adjunct professor of law at Widener University – Delaware Law School in its foreign LL.M. program. Porter discussed her experience teaching lawyers in the Russian cities of Moscow, Podolsk and Murom over the course of the past five years.
At CILS, lawyers are trained extensively in EU law. About 40-50 lawyers are trained at once each March. Teaching assignments include benefits like accommodations and tax deductible travel expenses. Classes are taught in English. When accepting an assignment, Porter said, be prepared to teach a multitude of subjects. Constitutional law, criminal procedure and even children’s rights were among the courses she has taught. Porter advised that CILS teachers obtain a list of subjects prior to the assignment to avoid surprises, as one must be prepared for all kinds of uncharted waters. Teachers should not expect the same facilities as those that are commonplace in the U.S., like flash drives or white boards.
Porter said that flexibility and adaptability to cultural differences is important for CILS assignments. There are varying degrees of students’ proficiency in English and she advised being careful about incorporating American cultural references into discussions as students are often unfamiliar with them. Students also had trouble understanding American constitutional law and First Amendment rights. She often fielded students’ questions about censorship and who keeps people from making fascist speeches. This was an eye-opening experience, and drove home that while Americans expect fundamental rights in this country, it is still very different in others.
Maureen M. Farrell (firstname.lastname@example.org), principal of the Law Offices of Maureen M. Farrell, is an associate
editor of the Philadelphia Bar Reporter.
This article originally appeared in Philadelphia Bar Reporter, October 2015.