KU Law: An international destination on the prairie

“International” might not be a word many people immediately associate with Kansas. But don’t let KU Law’s location on the prairie fool you.

As president of KU’s International Law Society, I have the honor of heading up one of the law school’s oldest student organizations; the KU chapter of ILS is over 40 years old. Yet KU’s international law tradition goes back even further. International and comparative law have been taught at KU Law since the school first opened its doors in 1878. I don’t think it is a coincidence that from its beginning in 1878, KU Law has never discriminated on the basis of ethnicity, race, gender or religion. This legacy of tolerance and openness has fostered a community of ILS members interested in expanding their horizons and engaging with the varieties of law practiced around the world.

ILS membership is diverse because every student has a unique reason for joining. Many of our members are international students. Indeed, in recent years up to 8 percent of law students at KU have been from outside the United States. We have law students from countries around the world, including China, Egypt, Mexico, Ethiopia, Korea, Turkey, Nigeria, Libya, Ecuador and South Africa. Over the years, ILS has been a place where people from various backgrounds can meet and discuss any number of international topics. Last fall, ILS held a lunch symposium featuring some of KU’s international students, many of whom have already earned law degrees in their own countries.

Many other ILS members are students from the U.S. who are interested in practicing international law. KU Law offers a robust International and Comparative Law Program. We have faculty members who specialize in international topics such as trade and finance, business law, public law, Islamic law and Chinese law. The International and Comparative Law Program at KU is fortunate to have world-class faculty members, and ILS is fortunate that these faculty members work closely with our organization to give guidance to our members at such events as the two yearly International Career Opportunities fora. KU’s international law faculty also have contacts all over the world, so ILS members never know when they might be introduced to a lawyer from Kyrgyzstan or a law professor from Israel!

Of course, sometimes ILS decides to put the books away and have a good time. Our year culminates with an annual wine tasting fundraiser where students and faculty get together, drink wine, and bid on silent auction items. Ticket proceeds and money raised from the auction go to Optimus Youth, an international charity founded by a KU Law graduate. This year’s wine tasting earned us the Best Philanthropic Activity Award from the International Law students Association.

Whether you are already international because of where you come from, or whether you are international because of where you want to go, ILS offers many opportunities for students to come together.

Bradley Freedman is a 3L and president of KU’s International Law Society.