One year ago, Co-vice Presidents of Harvard Law & International Development Society Maryum Jordan ’14 and Elizabeth Nehrling ’15 reached out to law schools around the world. Their question was simple: Are faculty and students at your institution interested in starting a law and international development student organization? The response was impressive and, as Jordan describes it, the e-mails “blossomed into a global collaborative effort that provided a meaningful way for students to share their perspectives on development issues, especially related to policies that have direct impact on their communities.” LIDS Global was born.
In fulfillment of the first part of the LIDS Global mission – supporting the development of student organizations at partner schools – Jordan and Nehrling composed a startup-toolkit and oversaw the creation of five student groups. Law and development organizations modeled after LIDS began at the National University of Singapore, the University of the Philippines, the University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), the Law Institute at Kyrgyz National University (Kyrgyzstan), and the National Law School of India University-Bangalore.
Embodying the second element of the mission – coordinating dialogue between the groups –LIDS Global engaged all of the schools in a collaborative research and writing process. Jordan and Nehrling asked the partner groups to respond to a white paper previously produced by LIDS, “Access to Remedies for Public Harm Caused by Foreign Public Bribery: Proposals for Legal Reform in the U.S.” At the end of the year, the teams submitted papers on sub-topics ranging from the proper recipients of restitution in corruption proceedings to derivative lawsuits against public officials as mechanisms for accountability. The outgoing and incoming vice presidents of LIDS Global dedicated the summer to consolidating the paper. The final product appears on the LIDS website.
Since its inception, LIDS Global has continued to gain momentum. Over the summer, the Austral University School of Law in Argentina joined the network of partner groups. Universities in Canada and Lesotho have also proactively reached out to learn about becoming involved. This year, each school will again contribute a research paper revolving around a common theme: the role of freedom of information in the fight against corruption.
But it doesn’t stop there. Current Co-vice Presidents Christopher Crawford ’16 and Elizabeth Loftus ’16 have high hopes for the network. Ironically, “the primary goal for LIDS Global this year is local – we want to increase student awareness and involvement on the HLS campus,” says Crawford. Already, six students – including LL.M. and J.D. students from the law school and masters students from Tufts University’s Fletcher School – have joined the LIDS Global team. They will draft a white paper as Harvard’s contribution to the research, serve as contact points for the partner teams, and compile the final product next semester. The most challenging aspiration will be putting the international teams in direct dialogue with each other – something Crawford and Loftus plan to do through a tele-event.
LIDS Global’s success in such a short period speaks to the innovative role it plays in an increasingly globalized legal education. The topics it addresses through research are truly transnational issues. The Philippines team notes that it “salute[s] Harvard LIDS for its professionalism and commitment in providing a venue for law students around the world to contribute ideas in solving modern-day problems.”
The initiative profits from the international network that begins at Harvard. LL.M. students have been instrumental in developing the program – among many others, Delphia Lim ’13 advises the Singapore team, Ignacio Boulin-Victoria ’14 began the Argentina group, and Adarsh Varghese ’15 co-leads the current HLS white paper project. “LIDS Global makes the world feel so much smaller and more accessible,” says Nehrling “I know that if I ever find myself in Tanzania or with a legal question about Argentina, I have a phenomenal network of friends and colleagues available.”