UT's Institute for Transnational Law was set up by the Law School to enhance the teaching of foreign and comparative law at UT, to help build international contacts for the Law School, and to increase student exchanges between UT and other major law schools. Professor Markesinis, its Founder and first Director, said: "We see Texas being the natural hub for exchanges between Europe - with which Texas has traditionally had close intellectual and business ties - and the Latin world of Central and South America - with which Texas has so many natural and obvious links which must be strengthened further."
The Institute has thus entered into a close co-operative agreement with University College London and its Institute of Global Law (also directed by Professor Markesinis) as well as the University of Paris I (Sorbonne), the Ludwigs Maximillian University of Munich (in Germany) and others with a view to facilitating student and professorial exchanges.
As a result of generous funding, principally from the M.D. Anderson Foundation in Houston and the law firm of Vinson and Elkins, each year as many as ten Latin American students will study at Texas toward the LLM degree in North American law and then continue their studies for one or two years at University College London. At the same time, a similar number of European students will, after completing their studies at their own universities, read law at Austin for either the JD or LLM.
The Professorial Exchange Program will provide both a faculty outreach and a UT presence at the London component of this co-operative program. Thus up to three UT Law faculty members are expected to teach at University College London for varying periods of time each year. At the same time, the number of foreign professors visiting UT has already increased substantially as a result of the Law Schools' imaginative new hiring policy.
Basil Markesinis is the world's leading English-language authority on European law. At UT Professor Markesinis holds the Jamail Regents Chair in Law while in London he holds the Chair of Common and Civil Law. Commenting on the new Institute, Gibson Gayle, Jr., President of the M.D. Anderson Foundation, said "I am confident that in a few years it [the Institute for Transnational Law] will become one of the best in the world." He added, "I hope to see more students obtain master's degrees in International law and become professors, judges, and lawyers."
A further novel and important project launched by the two Institutes is the creation of a website for German and French law. The aim is to build a comprehensive database of leading French and German cases, beginning with the areas of contract, tort, commercial, and constitutional law (mainly human rights) and making them available to foreign audiences who cannot access the originals. The next phase will involve the regular updating of this enormous corpus of law and also the production of comparative annotations for some of the most important decisions. Because of its unique intellectual and political significance, the project is under the patronage of the Chief Justice of Texas, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, and the Presidents of the Supreme Courts of France and Germany.