The Law and Boundaries project was launched in 2011 by a group of PhD candidates affiliated to the (then) newly created Sciences Po Law School in Paris. Inspired by initiatives from North America, such as the Toronto Group for the study of International, Transnational and Comparative Law (Faculty of Law of Toronto University and Osgoode Hall Law School) and the work of the Institute for Global Law and Policy (Harvard Law School), in which some of us had participated, our aim was to create an academic space within Europe that would provide for cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary training, for discussing and critically engaging with the legal transformations that take place in the globalized world.
When we first decided to launch the project, most of us had a fairly classical “domestic” legal training in French or foreign law schools. However, we all pursued inter-disciplinary and critical PhD projects on a variety of topics regarding global governance: private international law, comparative law, war, or human rights. Thus, our first goal was to push forward European academic debates regarding questions pertaining to global governance. Moreover, our aim was to address the dearth of discussions about the role of law in perpetuating, condoning, and creating inequalities on the global or transnational scale. Furthermore, very few forums existed where graduate students like us could express their views. One of the reasons is the very structure and culture within the European academy. Be that as it may, at that time, we were not aware of many groups in Europe – except the few well-established critical legal thinking groups – in which the type of critical work we pursued was welcome.
L&B is about creating a transnational community of young scholars who would develop alternative ways of thinking and writing about law. The project is about destabilizing the artificially constructed boundaries between disciplines and within the legal field. When we started this project, we were hoping to get a better understanding of the ways in which law intervenes in the production and organization of the transnational or global space and creates, sustains, reverses, and subverts social, cultural, and economic processes. Another focus was on the dynamics that entrench or blur the distinctions between global/local, private/public, and economic/cultural, which are at the heart of the European legal thought. For this type of endeavor, we needed to create a forum for discussions among researchers from various legal and non-legal backgrounds. We therefore decided to organize a first conference which became an annual event.
An innovative approach to law required also to think about alternative ways of teaching law. For that reason, each year the conference features a debate about legal education. Thus, in 2012 we conveyed a conversation with Horatia Muir Watt; in 2013 we organized a roundtable discussion with Duncan Kennedy, Can Öztaş, and Reut Paz and in 2014 we held a conversation on global aspects of legal education with William Twinning and David Kennedy. The first two years, we focused mainly on various challenges faced by law teachers, researchers, and students in a globalized setting – especially but not only in Europe – and particularly in the context of a critical engagement with law. In the third year we put an emphasis on institutions, i.e. the future of law schools in the global perspective. The primary goal was to map out the transformations within legal scholarship and to assess their effects from a critical perspective. So far we have addressed the transnationalization of previously domestic legal markets and the ways in which it affects legal careers for young scholars. We have also attended to the question of social hierarchies, and we reflected upon how law schools reproduce and entrench them. Our sessions involved discussions about teaching methods, curriculum, hiring policies, inter- and counter-disciplinarity, and links between law school and practice, globalism, localism, and pluralism.