CGR conference bridges legal and geographical boundaries
What might a judge in Argentina, a lawyer in Brazil, a legislator in Peru and a law student in Gainesville have in common? UF Law.
The Law & Policy in the Americas Program, sponsored by the Center for Governmental Responsibility, aims to bridge geographical boundaries and often-conflicting bodies of law to foster connections between legal scholars and lawyers in the United States and those in Latin America. Each year, the program holds the Law & Policy in the Americas Conference, alternating its location between Gainesville and a Latin American country each summer. Last summer, the conference was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and by all accounts was a great success. Now in its 13th year, the conference has been held in San Jose, Costa Rica; Lima, Peru; Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba, Brazil; and Montevideo, Uruguay, according to the CGR website.
At first glance, it may not seem clear how UF Law can foster important relationships between countries as vast and varied.
“[The conference] is the perfect example of how we as an institution are developing critical connections with Latin America,” said conference coordinator and UF Law Professor Pedro Malavet, who also serves as director of the LL.M. in Comparative Law Program.
The conference panels are led by UF Law faculty, who seek out colleagues from Latin America to provide the complementary international perspective. Each year, the conference is attended by about 100 lawyers, law students, legislators, journalists and businesspeople from the United States and Latin America.
Jon Mills, UF Law professor and CGR director observed that conference participants band together based on their area of interest rather than nationality. Scientists meet other scientists, lawyers with lawyers, legislators with legislators, environmentalists with environmentalists, and so on.
“It’s very rewarding to see,” Mills said. “These relationships in the modern world are easy to sustain,” he added, underscoring the importance of the Internet as a means to keep in touch.
Malavet said a major purpose of the conference is engaging people in legal policy reform. For example, Malavet said, Brazil has recently developed an extensive legal policy regarding environmental regulation and conservation of natural resources, but the country has encountered obstacles when it comes to putting the laws into practice. That’s where the conference comes in – through ties made at the conference, Brazil has been able to call upon other Latin American countries that have already been through the process of implementing and enforcing their environmental regulations.
In addition to fostering relationships among legal practitioners and students in participating countries, the conference promotes UF Law and its academic programs, generating interest among international students and practitioners, especially in the environmental law and land use law LLM programs.
Malavet noted the impact that the rapid economic growth of several Latin American countries has on the Florida legal landscape. There is a large need for legal services on behalf of Latin American investors who forge business partnerships and pursue ventures in the United States. Partnerships between Florida lawyers and their Latin American counterparts serve to bridge the gap between two different legal systems – the common-law system of the United States and the civil law systems predominant in Latin America. But the benefit goes both ways – when United States attorneys help their Latin American counterparts, all parties involved gain a greater perspective and understanding on the role and significance of laws in their own country, Malavet said. This is especially true for the UF Law scholars who participate in the conference, he said.
“I find, ultimately, that looking at other legal systems in detail helps us to understand our own and helps us to produce high-level scholarship here in the United States,” Malavet said.
– Nicole Safker (JD 12)