McGill conference looks at law in the era of globalization

McGill University’s Paul-André Crépeau Centre for Private and Comparative Law is hosting an international conference called “Stateless Law? The Future of the Discipline” on Sep. 28 and 29.

According to McGill Law Professor Shauna Van Praagh, the name and scope of the conference are inspired by the 10th anniversary of the first graduating class of McGill’s unique program of legal education.

“McGill’s Faculty of Law introduced a double-degree program in the fall of 1999 that integrates legal traditions and systems in the teaching and learning of law. The conference provides an opportunity both to celebrate the success of the program, and to reflect in a broader way on lessons learned and related challenges for all scholars and teachers of law.”

Dean of McGill’s Faculty of Law and Wainwright Chair in Civil Law, Daniel Jutras, says the theme of stateless law reflects the open-ended understanding of law that is embodied in the program of legal education at McGill.

“Once one is no longer constrained by the ordinary boundaries of legal education and research — no longer restricted to explore only the law of one’s state or jurisdiction — the question of the future of the discipline of law is unavoidable. What should we study, alongside our own national law? What counts as ‘law’ and how do we know it? The reference to a stateless law leaves open a number of answers to those questions.”

Van Praagh says what ties the presentations and panels together under the rubric of stateless law is “a willingness to challenge legal scholarship, legal education, and legal knowledge by questioning, dislodging, and/or re-conceiving the significance of the state.”

She believes the conference is most likely to attract law professors, law students, lawyers, and scholars with expertise in arbitration, international law, civil obligations and commercial law.

“We hope all attendees will feel like active participants, and will find ways to incorporate ideas and insights from the conference into how they think and practice as jurists.”

Asked who she is most looking forward to seeing at the conference, Van Praagh is hard to pin down.

“The easiest answer is to list our outstanding plenary speakers: Ernest Weinrib, Annelise Riles and John Gardner. Everyone attending the conference will no doubt be inspired and provoked by their contributions, and the three presentations will serve as touchstones in the overall content, shape and tone of the conference.

“And yet, as a co-speaker with three academic colleagues, I could just as easily answer the question by saying that I’m looking forward to hearing what my co-panelists will say, and how our ideas will interact in our session and beyond. Finally, I am tempted to answer by saying that the best way to go into a conference is with a willingness to learn the most from perhaps unexpected places. That’s why it’s often the panel session that you choose from among two or three options that has the greatest impact on how we teach, write and do law.”

Adds Jutras: “Obviously, academics and students, both graduate and undergraduate, will find much to reflect upon at this conference, but lawyers, judges, arbitrators must also think carefully about the multiple layers and intersecting bodies of norms and rules that constitute the law today, and what it means to have and to maintain legal expertise. We think the conference is of interest to anyone who thinks about the changing shape of law in contemporary life.”

“Stateless Law? The Future of the Discipline,” will be held Sept. 28 and 29 at McGill University’s Faculty of Law. Accredited for continuing education hours. For more information see

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