Margaret Woo11.07.17 — Professor Margaret Woo, a leading expert on the Anglo-American legal system and the Chinese socialist legal system, has been selected for a Fulbright Specialist award for spring 2018. She will partner with faculty at the University of Florence in Italy to develop a series of comparative law seminars at the University of Florence that address the changing landscape of international cooperation over the past year, including BREXIT, multi-lateral treaties, and ongoing political developments in the US and Europe that, as a whole, suggest further withdrawals from international law institutions, comparative law projects and multi-lateral institutions may be imminent. 

According to Woo and her University of Florence colleagues, this recent turn inward presents a challenge to those who work in and champion the cause of comparative law and global justice. They say that comparative law not only promotes better international understanding by looking outward, but also how different nations resolve similar problems. Comparative law informs national law making, aids judges in difficult decisions and provides a basis for legal unification or harmonization. Woo asks, “But how should comparative law respond to this recent challenge to our tasks? In part, answering this question requires an understanding of the trajectory of comparative law, a shift in our critiques of the field, and an adjustment in our goals.”

The series of lectures will first focus on civil procedure because civil procedure, in regulating how civil lawsuits are to be adjudicated, not only practically ensures the enforcement of substantive rights, but also reflects a society’s collective sense of justice. Procedural fairness is critical to political legitimacy and acceptance of outcome, even when the outcome may be adverse to the disputant’s interest. And the process of disputing and dispute resolution unveils the meaning participants attach to going to court, as well as social practices that indicate when and how to escalate disputes to a public forum.

Woo will work with Professor Remo Caponi, a comparative civil procedure expert on the faculty of the University of Florence, on an assessment of the criticisms levied against comparative law and international courts. The project’s goal is to promote the establishment and maintenance of international relations on the basis of law and justice.

“I look forward to combatting today’s rise of nationalism and inward-looking countries by this comparative law project funded by the Fulbright Commission. I hope this exchange will also benefit Northeastern faculty and students in furthering collaborations between the two schools,” said Woo, who is the author of four books: Chinese Justice: Civil Dispute Resolution in Contemporary China (Cambridge University Press, 2011); Litigating in America: Civil Procedure in Context (Aspen Publishing Co., 2006) (co-author); American Civil Litigation: Historical, Social and Cultural Context (Falu Chubanshe, 2002) (co-author); and East Asian Law: Universal Norms and Local Culture (Cruzon/Routledge Publishers, 2002) (co-author). In September, Woo was selected as one of 23 new academic fellows of the Pound Civil Justice Institute, a national legal think tank created by pioneering members of the trial bar and dedicated to ensuring access to justice for ordinary citizens. 

The Fulbright Specialist Program, part of the larger Fulbright Program, was established in 2001 by the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program pairs highly qualified US academics and professionals with host institutions abroad to share their expertise, strengthen institutional linkages, hone their skills, gain international experienc, and learn about other cultures while building capacity at their overseas host institutions. Specialists, who represent a wide range of professional and academic disciplines, are competitively selected to join the Fulbright Specialist Roster based on their knowledge, skill sets and ability to make a significant contribution to projects overseas.

About Northeastern University School of Law

The nation’s leader in experiential legal education since 1968, Northeastern University School of Law offers the longest-running, most extensive experience-based legal education program in the country and is a national leader in legal education reform. Founded with cooperative legal education as the cornerstone of its program, Northeastern guarantees its students an unparalleled full year of practical legal work. All students participate in four, full-time legal placements, and can choose from the more than 900 employers worldwide participating in the school’s signature Cooperative Legal Education Program. The future of legal education since 1968, Northeastern University School of Law blends theory and practice, providing students with a unique set of skills and experience to successfully practice law.