Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute

We live in a global age.  People, goods, services, information, and capital flow freely across international boundaries.  From the Internet, e-mail, and fax machines to travel, migration, commerce, and foreign relations, the story of the new millennium is our ever shrinking planet. Our world is more inter-connected than ever before and the array of challenges we face in the 21st century—and the problems entrusted to lawyers—require international cooperation and solutions.

The Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute was created for such a world, to serve as a center for instruction and research in international and comparative law.  Through a combination of education and research, the Institute seeks to contribute to the betterment of the global society by expanding the knowledge and understanding of key issues, promoting the rule of law, and addressing the kinds of problems that require international cooperation and collaboration. In the process, the Institute thrives to enhance the intellectual vibrancy of Washington University School of Law, as well as prepare lawyers for the professional challenges of the 21st century.  By drawing on a vast pool of international and national expertise, the Harris Institute fosters collaboration, continuous dialogue and exchange among scholars and practitioners engaged in international or comparative work.

History of the Institute

The Harris Institute officially opened its doors in November 2000 as the Washington University School of Law “Institute for Global Legal Studies”. Stephen H. Legomsky, the Charles F. Nagel Professor of International and Comparative Law, served as its first director, and was succeeded by John O. Haley, the Wiley B. Rutledge Professor of Law in 2002.  In February 2002, the Institute was renamed to the “Harris Institute for Global Legal Studies” in honor and recognition of Whitney R. Harris’ lifelong achievements in the field of international justice, and his support of legal education and research.  In Fall 2007, Leila Nadya Sadat, the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law, was named the Institute's third director and brought on board the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative.

With a focus on developing innovative global solutions to real-life problems, the Harris Institute has sponsored more than 85 speakers and held or co-sponsored more than 25 major international conferences since it opened.  It also housed the “Ambassador-in-Residence” program, as well as hosted debate series and several scholarship roundtables to discuss pressing issues in international law and policy.  In addition, programs like the Dagen-Legomsky Fellowships and the ICC Legal Tools Project provide future lawyers opportunities to gain valuable experience while pursuing their legal training. 

Whitney R. Harris (1912 –2010)

The namesake of the Institute, Whitney R. Harris served as a trial counsel prosecuting the major German war criminals before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, from August 1945 to the conclusion of the trial on October 1, 1946.  Mr. Harris kept the Nuremberg dream alive through his writings and his advocacy, and later through his philanthropic generosity.  In 2001, he endowed the Institute for Global Legal Studies at the Washington University School of Law.  In 2008 he and Anna Harris endowed the Institute’s “World Peace Through Law Award” at a ceremony during which the Harris Institute’s name was changed to the “Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute” the name it bears today. He was the last surviving prosecutor on Justice Robert Jackson’s team and departed this world on April 22, 2010. To view his memorial page, click [here].

The Institute is grateful to the generous donations of our financial supporters and institutional partners.

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