Chicago Journal of International Law


In the fall of 1976, Richard R. Baxter, the Manley O. Hudson Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School, gave an address entitled "The Current Science of International Law in the United States Today." In a portion of the speech relevant to this symposium, Professor Baxter noted that, like many professions, American international lawyers believed they "could play a larger part in public life, or could do more for mankind .... or (could] simply capture somewhat more influence and prestige within society [or the] public arena." The capacity of the profession to do this, Baxter said, depended in part upon its ability to assess honestly its strengths and weaknesses. Among the strengths that Baxter noted were the openness of the American government concerning United States practice in foreign affairs; the growth of American publications in the field (including the many student publications); and the "plethora" of international law organizations and conferences and other continuing legal activities related to international law. The quarter-century that has passed since Baxter's speech has brought further favorable developments in these contexts. On a less self-congratulatory note, Professor Baxter acknowledged that the American international law profession was also characterized by many weaknesses. Taking into account the changed circumstances of the years since Professor Baxter's speech, much of this criticism is relevant today. I propose to look at the principal criticisms that Professor Baxter raised, to reflect on the criticisms as they apply today, and to add a few new ones to the list. I speak from the perspective of a private practitioner who has watched talented young lawyers join my law firm and often depart for a life in government or teaching. Because of my involvement in the American Society for International Law ("ASIL") and other professional organizations such as the International Law Association, and an occasional foray into teaching, I also spend a good deal of time with law professors and their students.