The law faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, located on Mount Scopus, is the flagship of legal research and education in Israel. The faculty, established in 1949 as the first law faculty at an Israeli university, has a glorious past, an impressive record of present day excellence and a promising future.
Most of the leadership of the Israeli legal system, including most of our past and present Supreme Court Justices, have graduated from the law faculty, or taught therein. Most of the recipients of the prestigious Israel Prize in Law and Criminology have also hailed from the faculty.
The current members of the law faculty at Hebrew University are top notch teachers and researchers with an established international reputation and prominent status in the Israeli legal universe. Their research work, which involves developments in legal theory with a global application and more practical oriented study of law from critical and comparative perspectives, is regularly published in the world's top law journals and publishing houses. Our faculty members also distinguish themselves in obtaining competitive research grants and prizes for academic excellence.
Significant parts of the research activity in the faculty are conducted in the framework of research groups (under the auspices of research centers or forums). Such groups allow faculty members to cooperate with one another, as well as with other researchers and research students from around the world. The said research groups hold throughout the year a vast number of academic events; through participation in these events our students are exposed to a rich academic discourse of the highest quality.
The faculty's prestigious reputation is not based, however, exclusively on the groundbreaking research conducted and presented in Mount Scopus. It also derives from the excellent study programs the faculty offers in law at the first (LL.B.), second (LL.M.) and third (LL.D.) degree levels, and in the much sought after study programs for second (M.A.) and third (Ph.D.) degree in criminology.
The faculty student body is characterized not only by its exceptional scholastic quality (the criteria for admission to the degree programs at the faculty are the stringent in Israel and our graduates are hired after graduation to clerk at the most prestigious clerking positions in the country) and great diversity (Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, Israelis and non-Israelis, new immigrants and native born). Our students also display a unique level of commitment towards improving Israeli society. This commitment finds expression, among other things, in the large numbers of participants in our clinical legal education center programs and in the different workshops organized by the Minerva Center for Human Rights, and in other community oriented activities initiated and organized by faculty students, with the support of the faculty leadership. In all of our activities, we regard our students as full partners in faculty life, and as an indispensable element in our success.
The law faculty's record of excellence in the fields of research and education preserves our long-standing status as the leading legal center in Israel and as one of the world's best law schools. This elated status is reflected, inter alia, in international lists of academic rankings, which consistently place the law faculty and the Hebrew University ahead of any competing Israeli institution and among the world's top 100 law schools and universities.
The future success of the law faculty depends on its continued ability to attract the best legal minds, to provide the most attractive research platforms and to offer the strongest degree programs in law. One can mention, in this context, three principal trends, which guide our present academic efforts, and will continue to guide out efforts in the foreseeable future.
First, we are in the midst of a process in which legal research and education are becoming more inter-disciplinary than ever before. Alongside 'classic' legal research, which examines the historical origins of the legal system and its institutional structures, maps the system's rules and analyzes its principles, faculty members and research students are increasingly involved in inter-disciplinary research, which explores the interplay between law and society, between legal writings and philosophical and religious scholarship and between theories of law and theories of governance. Our study programs are also becoming gradually more inter-disciplinary. For example, about half of our first degree law students are enrolled in a joint degree program in law and another academic discipline. Underlying these developments is recognition of the impossibility of separating legal research and practice from other bodies of knowledge that interact with the world of law, shape its contents and are influenced by it. Inter-disciplinary research and education allows us to contextualize law in light of its role in society.
Second, legal research and education in our faculty is becoming more and more internationalized – a phenomenon explained by the impact of economic, cultural and political globalization on law and legal practice. Our faculty members are already active participants in global research arenas, and we host every year increasing numbers of visiting professors and researchers from around the world. The number of non-Israeli students participating in exchange programs and in second and third degree programs offered in English is also rising sharply. At the same time, dozens of our students participate every year in academic exchanges and spend a semester in one of the 20 foreign law schools with which we have exchange agreements; other students participate in academic missions travelling to diverse locations such as Rwanda, Switzerland, Canada and Northern Ireland. Our faculty is also the only Israeli law school that is a founding partner of the London based Center for Transnational Legal Studies (CTLS), and Hebrew University faculty members and students teach and study in that institution. The law faculty's immersion in an increasingly internationalized environment supports the development of research and education in legal fields particularly suitable for international academic cooperation and exchange, such as legal theory, comparative law and international law (including international business law and intellectual property).
Third, the law faculty invests considerable efforts in maintaining contacts with its professional and geographical surroundings. Faculty members assume senior positions in public life in Israel and consult, on a regular basis, governmental and non-governmental entities in and outside Israel. The faculty also maintains strong professional ties with the leading law firms in the country, and assists its graduates in finding placements therein. The numerous conference and symposia held in the faculty are open to the general public and feature presentations by academics, as well as practitioners; the faculty also sponsors legal training sessions for lawyers and other professional groups. Finally, the center for clinical legal education provides meaningful legal support for diverse communities in and around Jerusalem. All of these activities are premised on the view that we, as a law faculty, should refrain from shutting ourselves out from Israeli society. As we see it, legal research and education is not merely a method for developing professional legal expertise, the legal expertise we nurture imposes on all those involved in the process of learning – professors and students – a social responsibility to utilize the knowledge they accrue in order to improve the conditions of society in Israel.
The combination of various factors: an outstanding academic faculty, supported by a dedicated and experienced administrative staff, first rate students imbued with social responsibility and a long-standing tradition and reputation for academic excellence, allow the law faculty at Hebrew University to constitute a world class center for legal research and education. These factors also facilitate a pleasant and enjoyable work and study environment. I am proud to be associated with such an institution – both as a faculty member and an alumnus thereof.
Prof. Yuval Shany