Dean’s Introduction: Welcome to the Bulletin

Gillian Lester_web

Dean Gillian Lester, Columbia Law


The online component of the


Founded by Wolfgang G. Friedmann

Fall 2014

Columbia Law School has a proud tradition of addressing issues at the forefront of the law, and a particularly illustrious history in the field of international law. From Professor Francis Lieber, who—at the request of President Lincoln—grappled with how governments might regulate the conduct of war in the famous code that bears his name, to Professor Louis Henkin, who helped shape the contours of the modern human rights movement, Columbia has long been a place that encourages those within its walls to push the boundaries of conventional doctrines, engage with emerging ideas, and shape debates on how law can contribute to a more just world order.

For over fifty years, the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law has allowed students to contribute to Columbia’s vibrant international law community. Since the Journal’s founding in 1961, it has served the dual purpose of providing a platform for vigorous intellectual exchange and a place for students to broaden and deepen their understanding of international law.

Lester_Bulletin Cover Photo

The original Bulletin, published in 1961

When Wolfgang Friedmann first brought together a small group of his students passionate about the study of international law, their first published volume, titled the Bulletin of the Columbia Society of International Law, discussed a range of issues that spanned the divide between scholarship and practice. The second volume, published in 1962 as the International Law Bulletin, moved closer to the style of the traditional law review. Professor Friedmann’s efforts represented some of the best aspects of the North American law school model: practitioners and students working closely together, learning from each other in service of a larger set of ideals.

This spirit is alive today. JTL’s new online companion, the Bulletin, seeks to embody this spirit by giving students and practitioners a fresh venue to engage rapidly developing issues in the field of international law. Having such a forum is now more important than ever. Globalization means that the opportunities and threats facing the international community develop quickly.  This compels us to engage broadly and frequently on the role that international law should play in responding to these developments. Electronic publishing has revolutionized how ideas and information spread. Because the dissemination of ideas is no longer limited by geographic or institutional borders, there is more room for diverse perspectives and interdisciplinary insights. By hosting timely and relevant commentary of a nature not found in typical law review publications, the Bulletin will help apply scholarship to developments “on the ground” and reach an audience far wider than those who follow traditional print journals.

It presents the opportunity to publish commentary quickly, where it is more likely to inform opinions of how to interpret events as they arise. Finally, it will give readers the opportunity to share their own ideas, helping to sharpen and clarify debates, all the while maintaining the high quality of scholarship that has characterized the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law throughout its history.

The addition of the Bulletin will enhance the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law’s reputation as one of the premier student-run international law journals in the world.

What to Expect

While international law is a rapidly moving field to which the Bulletin aims to be responsive, as an online companion to the print edition of the Journal of Transnational Law, the Bulletin will initially focus on a few discrete types of content that complement the print journal.

A primary aim of the Bulletin is to provide timely and concise analysis on notable developments in international law. The Bulletin’s first “Featured Article” does just that. In Attacking “Islamic State” and the Khorasan Group: Surveying the International Law Landscape, Dr. Louise Arimatsu and Professor Michael Schmitt provide the first comprehensive assessment of the legality of the recent U.S. and allied airstrikes on ISIS in Iraq and Syria from an international law perspective.

In addition to focusing on contemporary developments in international law as they happen, the Bulletin will also provide analysis on recent case decisions with implications for international law. At a time when multiple fora – including domestic, regional, and international courts, as well as foreign ministries and international institutions – help determine the contours and content of international law, it is important to provide platforms that distill and analyze the impact of these decisions. In the Bulletin’s first two “Case Notes,” Kate Benner assesses subsidies extinction in the WTO Appellate Body’s EC – Aircraft decision, while Ethan Merel analyzes the Department of Justice’s recently released 2010 memorandum on targeted killings.

At the same time, the Bulletin will seek to provide exposure to those individuals who are helping to shape international law today. “Conversations” profile young scholars and practitioners with questions tailored to their scholarship and professional interests. The aim of this feature is to provide both inspiration and practical insight to students and young practitioners looking to launch or navigate a career in international law. The two individuals profiled for the Bulletin’s launch are excellent examples of how to build a varied, meaningful career. Professor Sarah Knuckey, Director of the Columbia Human Rights Clinic and Faculty Co-Director of the Human Rights Institute, shares her insight on the role that clinical education can play in the broader human rights movement and how students might launch a career in the field. Lisa Sachs, Director of the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment and a graduate of Columbia Law School, discusses the role of sustainable investment in global development and how to harness economic forces to create mutually beneficial outcomes for a wide range of stakeholders.

Finally, the Bulletin will give scholars and practitioners the ability to engage directly with their peers through book reviews, blog-style posts, essays, and keynotes speeches from symposia.  In this vein, the Bulletin has published remarks delivered by Columbia Law Professor Philip C. Bobbitt at the November 2013 Lieber Conference, which was hosted by Columbia Law School.

A hearty welcome to the Bulletin. This innovative new companion to the Journal of Transnational Law pays tribute to Columbia Law School’s distinguished history of leadership in the field of international law and Columbia’s broader aim of tackling the most vital legal and societal issues of our times.


Dean Gillian Lester