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Jens Drolshammer has retired in the summer term 2009 at the University of St. Gallen. He had been teaching for over 30 years at the University of St. Gallen as honorary professor of Anglo-American law and the planning and structuring of legal transactions. He was commission president, co-founder and a teacher of the post-graduate program “Executive Master of European and International Business Law, M.B.L.-HSG”. He was also a professor in the post-graduate Master of International Management program, a program which was exclusively taught in English. For family reasons, he was unable to take up invitations for circumscribed teaching engagements at US law schools. In the summer term of 2007 he taught at an inter-university seminar at Zurich University on the effects and importance of American Law and Legal Culture on Swiss General Counsel, attornys, juristic and regulatory officials and Judges.

My Writing Credo

My main occupation was as a lawyer with a major commercial law firm in Zurich, but for many years now my secondary occupation has essentially been to communicate the relevant concerns of a specialist law firm to a modern business university, using my own special teaching methods. One particular emphasis of my work remains “American legal culture”.

Guiding principle

I like to quote a passage from Alfred North Whitehead on university teaching, which has been my guiding principle in undertaking this work:

“What the faculty have to cultivate is activity in the presence of knowledge. What the students have to learn is activity in the presence of knowledge.

This discussion rejects the doctrine that students should first learn passively, and then, having learned, should apply knowledge. It is a psychological error. In the process of learning there should be present, in some sense or other, a subordinate activity of application. In fact, the applications are part of the knowledge. For the very meaning of the things known is wrapped up in their relationship beyond themselves. This unapplied knowledge is knowledge shorn of its meaning.

The careful shielding of a university from the activities of the world around us is the best way to chill interest and to defeat progress. Celibacy does not suit a university. It must make itself with action”

Alfred North Whitehead (1947)


Detailed programs of my courses in the past few semesters are listed to serve as examples. They include an inter-university and inter-disciplinary seminar for advanced students and doctoral candidates on the interaction of law and economic factors during the drafting, application and especially the amendment of a law; a specialist inter-disciplinary course on “American Legal Culture” with the title “Attack on America: The Consequences – from a Legal Perspective – The Role of Law, Lawyers and Law Enforcement in Times of Crisis”; the program of my “Professional Service Firms” seminar for the Master of International Management in the summer semester 2002; and the course (held in the winter semester 2002/2003) “Attack on America: The Consequences of 9/11 from a Legal Perspective, the Role of Law, Lawyers and Law Enforcement in Times of Crises – a year after – observations and reflections”; the teaching event “Legal Reasoning” in the winter term 2005/2006, as well as in the winter term 2006/2007 the teaching event “American legal culture from a European perspective – a guided tour through the history of American law using the book by Professor Alan M Derschowitz, “America on Trial, Inside the legal battles that transformed our nation” in the summer term of 2006 and the seminar “American legal culture from a European perspective – An approach to US legal culture by heads of legal departments of multinational enterprises, by internationally active lawyers, by Swiss administrative and regulatory authorities as well as by courts in Switzerland and Europe” in the summer term of 2007. For the spring, there is also a plan to hold a seminar entitled “The Canon of American Legal Thought”.

Law in action

In terms of the way they dealed with development over time and the dynamics of the emergence of legal issues, the courses generally adopted an approach geared to “Law in Action”. That teaching approach accepted that a teaching and learning method that takes account of complex reality and the way it changes dynamically over time can be successful, especially when dealing with more advanced students. If the course was to relate closely to the real world, one must not allow dogmatic pigeonholing and classification of legal issues in strict textbook fashion to hamper the growth of inter-disciplinary relationships. The aim in those classes was to confront students, in as realistic and interactive a way as possible, with legal questions that actually arise as well as with the inter-disciplinary relationships with which these are inextricably linked.

In constant dialogue with their teachers and, where possible, with the participation of experts involved in both theoretical and practical fields, seminar participants were to be motivated and empowered to at least recognize and categorize complex legal problems. Due to time pressure as well as the complexity involved, that type of teaching was primarily about integrative and interrelated process of “issue spotting” rather than dealing with issues in a profound and comprehensive way. That was why on the whole, the people I (Prof. Jens Drolshammer) wanted to attract to my “Law in Action” courses had to be advanced students or graduates from various departments who had already acquired the necessary basic concepts and fundamental knowledge in more traditional classes.

Teaching method

My teaching method is a variation on and was developed from what’s known as the transactional teaching method in the field of the planning and structuring of legal transactions where real legal transactions were re-enacted in real time with the assistance of actual actors and case files involved either just after the transaction had been completed or as it was being structured. This type of class opts for a method of conveying the subject matter that is fundamentally different and complements the traditional approach to analyzing legal issues.

The starting-point for this method is the real world, which needs to be understood and shaped, and the method categorizes knowledge based on problem areas that are on the whole not linked to areas of law. At the same time, the process of actually planning and shaping the legal reality based on a genuine event is included in the teaching. The focus is on introducing an alternative relationship with reality as well as a different view of the profession as well as the sense of reality of the transaction conveyed by an integrative and interdisciplinary approach into university courses for advanced students. I (Prof. Jens Drolshammer) have written about this type of teaching in the following publications: “Der Rechtsanwalt als Hochschullehrer?”, “Ein didaktisches Experiment an der Universität St. Gallen und ein Plädoyer für eine transaktionale Lehrmethode im modernen Wirtschaftsrecht,; “Internationalisierung der Rechtsausbildung und Forschung – eine Agenda für die interdisziplinäre ausgerichtete Ausbildung zum im Wirtschaft und Management Tätigen International Lawyer” , “The Effects of Globalization on Legal Education”; and with Peter Murray as co-author “The Education and Training of a New International Lawyer”,

The last course in the spring Semester of 2009 was based on the large collection of essays A Timely Turn to the Lawyer? Globalization and the Anglo-Americanization of law and legal professionals – Essays. The valedictory lectureof May 14th 2009 was devoted to the same overall subject. It had the title The Global Groove of the Harvard Yard – Persönliches zur Person in der „Globalisierung und die Anglo-Amerikanisierung von Recht und Rechtsberufen“

Cutting the pie

Given my plans to concentrate on continuing with research and publications following my fellowship at Harvard Law School in 1999, which was mainly concerned with the effects of globalization on legal systems, the legal profession, professional service firms and legal education, teaching in the field of “American Legal Culture” will focus on these areas. The University of St. Gallen will be undergoing a major reform, and in the light of this, and given the closer relationship with the United States, I plan to continue with my colloquia on “American Legal Culture”, introducing a specifically transatlantic perspective. In this connection, I would like to expand on the idea of the “virtual classroom” and organize a series of transatlantic lectures in which US colleagues and students could take part via video conferencing. When the opportunity arises, I also plan to hold through co-teaching a series of transactional classes dealing with a complex transaction and involving the original participants and original documents.

In the near future, within the limits that I have set myself in terms of time available for teaching, I shall try to experiment with different didactic techniques, making particular use of opportunities offered by new media such as virtual classrooms, video conferencing and distance learning. Since I shall be prioritizing my consultancy and publishing work over the next few years, all my teaching will be combined into blocks according to subject matter and the time available, to ensure that any clashes are kept to a minimum. The idea of a “virtual classroom” and an extension of “on-site teaching” i.e. holding some classes in a space in Susenbergstrasse, may also turn out to be helpful.

Apart from all this, my main aim is to do a lot of reading, to return to learning new things on my own behalf, and to feed the results into my research and publication projects, “The Global Lawyer”, “Law and Innovation” and “The Role of the Corporate Sector in International Governance” and “The Concept and Outlines of a Swiss-US Cultural Exchange”. The same holds true for my work on developing theory in such fields as “Strategy and Law”, “Strategic Legal Advice”, “Issue Management”, “Law and Communications” and “Law and Reputation”, which fall more into the area of “Expertise” and “Applied Research”. I want to give advanced students on both sides of the Atlantic more access to what I have been doing as part of my consulting and journalistic work in the field of the Professional Service Firm over the past several years, so this year, I am working on a detailed outline for a course entitled “The Changing Legal Professions – From an International Perspective”. My plans for a business service that creates expertise, a service that focuses on the kind of teaching provided by a moderator or facilitator, relate more to my future consultancy work than to my university career. Time will tell.

Since teaching has moved to the background, Jens Drolshammer will conduct occasional research projects in this area with colleagues and devote more time to his interests in music and art. If a suitable resarch project will surface, he considers to regularly go to Harvard Law School as a senior fellow and visiting resarcher and to Longy School of Music as a student.

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