Washburn University and the Republic of Georgia Judicial Independence and Legal Empowerment Project
In 2011, Washburn University School of Law received an $800,000 grant from the United States Department of State, Agency for International Development, to work with law schools and legal educators in the Republic of Georgia on a project to enhance legal education in that country. Representatives from Washburn selected the law school at Free University of Tbilisi as our primary partner for this project. Since that time, faculty members from each law school have visited the campus of the other, and more than half of Washburn Law School faculty members have been engaged in one or more of the ongoing joint projects.
National Center for Commercial Law
A primary focus of the Washburn/Free University relationship has been on development of a National Center for Commercial Law. Four faculty members from Free University visited Washburn in August 2011 for training on teaching methods, and a Washburn delegation, led by Dean Tom Romig, visited Tblilsi in March 2012 to formally launch the Center and to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the two schools. Professor Amy Westbrook traveled to Georgia to conduct an intensive intersession course on International Business Transactions and Transactional Drafting, and, in the process, developed a set of course materials that will be used by Georgian faculty in future administrations of the course. Several Washburn faculty members participated in a National Symposium on Commercial Law in March 2012 that will be an annual event each spring in Tbilisi. Students and practitioners in Georgia participated in a commercial law writing competition authoring articles on timely commercial law topics for the inaugural issue of the Georgia Commercial Law Journal; an article by Professor Westbrook will also be featured in that journal. Additional plans for joint activities include a commercial law summer school course, an open lecture series with in-person or video presentations by Washburn faculty, development of teaching materials, long distance student interaction either in simultaneous class discussions or on directed research projects, and assistance with moot court competitions. In May 2013, Professor Janet Jackson will travel to Georgia to assist with the creation of a commercial law clinical program at Free University. Professor Patricia Judd coordinates Washburn's participation in these projects.
Project to Enhance Georgian Legal Education
Drawing upon resources of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, the parties agreed that Washburn will assist with efforts to enhance legal education in Georgia with particular emphasis on developing law teaching methodology. Professor Michael Hunter Schwartz, who played a primary role in development of this grant, leads the work on this component of the project. Along with members of the Washburn faculty and other experts in the field, several workshops have been planned for each year of the grant that may be generally categorized as " a "Train-the-Trainer Curriculum." Georgian law teachers from throughout the country have participated in these programs. They have focused on articulation of learning goals, evaluation of entering student skills and knowledge, selection of course materials, development of course design, assessment, teaching law students to be self-regulated learners, and interactive teaching techniques.
Development of Legal Writing and Analysis Programs
As members of one of the nation's leading legal writing and analysis programs, Washburn faculty members have provided specialized training in courses focused upon these skills. Associate Dean Aida M. Alaka and Professors Tonya Kowalski and Joseph Mastrosimone have presented workshops on teaching methods, curriculum and course design.
Georgia Law School Library Project
Professor John Christensen, Washburn Library Director, plays a leading role in an initiative started in 2012 to enhance law school library resources in the Republic of Georgia. Work began with a conference in the fall of 2012; a group of American, European and Georgian experts discussed the challenges and opportunities of building a modern law library in a developing world law school. Washburn brings two decades of experience in technology (WashLaw Web) and interlibrary cooperation (Mid-America Law Library Consortium) to this initiative.
Constitutional Law Project
Shared interests of Free University and Washburn faculty led to a project focused on constitutional law. The Constitutional Law Clinic at Free University selects cases pending before the Constitutional Court of Georgia. Washburn students draft memoranda describing U.S. treatment of the constitutional issues involved in those cases, and students from the two schools participate in a joint video conference to discuss the cases. The Free University students then draft an amicus brief for the Constitutional Court. In 2012, that court cited work of the Free University and Washburn students in a landmark decision shaping property rights in Georgia. Additionally, Washburn Professor Bill Rich, current overall chair of the project, participated in an intensive Winter Course on Constitutional Law at the Bazaleti Conference Center in Georgia in 2012. Other Washburn Law constitutional law experts expect to participate in future Constitutional Law winter courses.