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All VLS Courses

Course Name

Applied Human Rights Seminar

International Law

An advanced international human rights law course in which students engage in research on cutting-edge issues in human rights law and policy for non-governmental organizations and inter-governmental organizations under the supervision of the professor. 

Comparative Law: Comparative Legal Systems

International Law

Explores how different countries within the Western Legal Tradition understand sources of law, the relationship between codes and cases, and constitutional design, including questions of federalism, judicial review and balance of powers.  The course will study selected aspects of legal systems, focusing on France and Germany, with some discussion of "mixed" common/civil law jurisdictions (e.g. Louisiana, South Africa), as well as some aspects of the European Union.

Comparative U.S.-China Environmental Law

International LawEnvironmental

An overview of the tremendous environmental challenges for the 1.3 billion people in China and the efforts to address them through law and regulation. After an introduction to the political and legal system and cultural background of the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, we will survey the basic regulatory schemes managing air quality, water resources and quality, natural resources, environmental impact assessments, and pending legislation concerning waste management and energy conservation. If there is sufficient interest, we may offer an additional, optional, one-credit session in China immediately following the class, to let students experience firsthand the environmental conditions and lectures and meetings with leading Chinese environmental scholars and activists.

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Conflict of Laws

International LawJurisprudence

Considers the principles used to resolve legal problems when the conflicting laws of two or more jurisdictions might reasonably be applied. The course initially focuses upon the different rules and methodologies used to determine the appropriate choice of law. Constitutional limits on the use of such rules and methodologies are explored in some detail.

Current Topics in International Law

International Law

This seminar will provide a vehicle for exploring "hot topics" in international law, with the specific focus shifting from year to year.

European Union: Emerging Constitutional Law

International Law

Provides a basic introduction to European Union law, with a focus on the foundational treaties, the key institutions and their interrelationships, and important cases decided by the European Court of Justice.  Students will be given an opportunity to attend lectures by leading EU legal scholars at the University of Trento in Italy.  Special fees and conditions may apply. 

French Corporate Law

International Law

Taught by a French law professor (in English), this course addresses the substantive law and underlying policies of the law of French business corporations and the ways in which the law differs from U.S. corporate law.  

French Legal Method

International Law

Taught by a French law professor (in English), this course provides an introduction the French law and legal system, and French legal methodology. 


International Law

Considers genocide from an interdisciplinary perspective, addressing legal, cultural, political, economic, and moral issues surrounding this phenomenon. These issues are studied in the context of broader international human rights concepts.

Immigration Law

International Law

Covers the basics of immigration law; family and employment-based immigration categories; citizenship issues, grounds of inadmissibility/deportability; detention; removal and relief from removal. Special emphasisis placed on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions and humanitarian relief under asylum law and under the Violence Against Women Act

Intergenerational Rights and Climate Change

International Law

A research and writing seminar about the doctrines, principles, and rules of law designed to ensure or facilitate the rights of present and future generations to protection from harms resulting or likely to result from global warming.

International Business Transactions

International LawBusiness

Using a problem-solving method, this course provides a practice-based introduction to private cross-border transactions, such as purchase/sale of goods; licensing of intellectual properties; and investment of capital in foreign countries in a service business.  

International Commercial Arbitration

Alternative Dispute ResolutionInternational Law
Curtis Pew

Explores the key legal and practical issues encountered when resolving international commercial disputes through arbitration.  Includes a  critical review and discussion of relevant treaties, statutes, rules, institutions, national and international cases, and awards; addresses the more global question concerning the advantages and disadvantages of arbitration as a method of dispute resolution.

International Criminal Law

International Law

Explores International Criminal Law, broadly defined to include criminal issues that arise in the international setting and international issues that arise in the context of national criminal law.  This broad definition encompasses the prosecution of crimes in international tribunals as well as transnational crimes such as terrorism, organized crime, trafficking in drugs and persons, and cybercrimes, which will be prosecuted in domestic/national courts.

International Environmental Law and Policy

EnvironmentalInternational Law

Provides an overview of the structure and basic principles of international environmental law and policy. The course considers the challenge of addressing global environmental problems; the regulatory limitations of U.S. law; and the basic structure and principles of international environmental law. The course examines in detail the structure of the Montreal Protocol regime  and covers other areas, including treaties related to climate change, biodiversity and wildlife protection, and the intersection of international trade and the environment. 

International Human Rights

International Law

Provides an introduction to international human rights law and procedures. It examines what are "human rights" and explores the law of treaty interpretation, how human rights law is incorporated into domestic legal systems, and the role of international governmental organizations, international and regional courts, and non-governmental organizations in protecting human rights.

International Investment Arbitration and the Environment

International LawEnvironmental

Covers particular themes where human rights, environmental, and investment law interact, such as the right to health, due process and denial of justice, property rights and expropriation, and stabilization clauses and positive human rights obligations. The course places special emphasis on ongoing negotiations, as well as on investment, human rights, and environmental cases decided by international tribunals.

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International Law

International Law

This course provides an introduction to international law and the international legal system.  Using real-world examples, it examines the processes through which international law is made, interpreted and applied, exploring the role of states as well as that of international bodies, non-governmental organizations, and corporations. The application of international law in domestic legal systems is examined, as is the reach of domestic law in the international arena.

International Regulation of Trade

International Law

An introduction to the field of international trade regulation.  Focused primarily on the interpretation and application of key provisions of the major trade treaties falling under the jurisdiction of the World Trade Organization, the course also examines arbitral decisions interpreting and applying provisions of separate bi-lateral and multi-lateral trade treaties such as NAFTA.

International Trade and the Environment

EnvironmentalInternational Law

Examines the intersection between trade liberalization and environmental protection. The course addresses protection of natural resources through unilateral trade-based measures, the legality of multilateral environmental agreements employing trade measures, utilization of science-based trade tests, and environmental impacts of foreign investment liberalization.

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Introduction to Chinese Law

International Law

An introduction to contemporary Chinese legal system and institutions in historical and comparative perspective.  Studies diverse aspects in the legal development of the PRC, including the legislature, sources of law, the legal profession and the judiciary, administrative law, the criminal justice system, dispute resolution, and the efforts and challenges of addressing China's environmental degradation and energy problems through law.

Law of International Organizations

International Law

Focuses on the law of treaty-based intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), including their constitutive laws, the laws governing their internal functioning, and the "laws" they promulgate in the form of binding and nonbinding agreements and regulations. The course examines the United Nations and its specialized agencies as well as other other IGO in diverse fields.

National Security Law

International LawPublic

Explores lawyers' involvement in the formulation and implementation of United States foreign and national defense policy through the examination variety of domestic, constitutional, and international law issues such as authority for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, intelligence gathering at home and abroad, detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects, planning for the next terrorist attack, protection of sensitive government information, and other current topics.

Ocean and Coastal Law

EnvironmentalInternational Law

A review of domestic and international laws and treaties relating to coastal management, pollution, protected areas, endangered species, fish, marine mammals, wetlands, and seabed mineral and hydrocarbon resources. The course considers how effectively these legal authorities blend together to provide rational and comprehensive management and protection of marine resources.

PDF LogoDownload the 2014 Course Syllabus - updated 6/2/14

Peace, War, and the Environment

EnvironmentalInternational Law

This course explores environmental protection during armed conflict and analyzes the role of environmental management in peacekeeping and state reconstruction. It considers current challenges in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, and discusses how environmental obligations may be incorporated into the laws of new states.

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Regulating the Marine Environment

EnvironmentalInternational Law

Examines the interaction of state, federal, and international regimes in the regulation of the marine environments through the examination of issues such as the marine environment as a source of energy; the nonrenewable resources of the seabed; and the winds, waves, currents, and temperatures of the sea itself.

Spanish Constitutional Law

International Law

An introduction to the study of comparative law that provides students with an opportunity to compare the Spanish and the American approaches to constitutional law.   The seminar focuses on similarities and differences in constitutional structure, methodology, and values.  Students attend lectures by leading Spanish legal scholars at VLS and at the University of Seville in Spain.  

Study Abroad Seminar: Canadian Legal System

International Law

Designed to increase study abroad opportunities for students, the specific content taught at VLS is based on the Canadian Legal System.

Transnational Issues in the Practice of Law

International Law

Examines the broad range of transnational issues that practitioners can expect to encounter in their law practices, such as international contracts, importing, exporting, inbound and outbound foreign investment, business immigration, protection of intellectual property, international aspects of criminal and family law, international enforcement of judgments, arbitral agreements and arbitral awards, and ethics.

Wildlife Crimes: Nature, Scope, and Response

EnvironmentalInternational Law

An introduction to the domestic statutes and international treaties that regulate and/or prohibit particular types of unlawful wildlife taking and trafficking, with emphasis on the enforcement schemes and methods used to address these crimes. The course includes a discussion of the most common types of wildlife crimes and an examination of the CITES treaty.