Photo: Pitt Law Professor Vivian Curran
University of Pittsburgh School of Law Professor Vivian Curran recently was made a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms) by the government of France. The award, originally founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1808, recognizes distinguished academics and figures in French culture and education. It was bestowed on Curran by the Consul General of France during a June 3 ceremony. The innovative approaches to legal scholarship and education Curran has brought to Pitt Law now place her with such Ordre des Palmes Académiques luminaries as 19th-century mathematician Henri Brocard and Olympic gold medalist Michel Alaux.
Instrumental in promoting the teaching of law courses in foreign languages, Curran instituted the Languages for Lawyers program, a course system designed to facilitate communication between lawyers and foreign clients and to teach foreign languages in a legal context. Curran’s class teaching French in a legal context was the first of its kind in the country. She also founded the English for Lawyers course for foreign attorneys and teaches a course on international arbitration in French, which produces students sought after by major American law firms in France and at home. Cultural exchange is a key component of Curran’s instruction, a critical element for an increasingly globalized world, and a facet of her influential book, Learning French Through The Law (Juris Publishing, 1996).
Curran’s work has greatly expanded Pitt Law’s embrace of foreign languages and intercultural exchange. For the past eight years, Curran has worked with a group of French and American judges at the Collège de France on the internationalization of law. In addition to her many English-language publications, Curran publishes frequently in French law journals—work that was recognized with her election in 2013 to the Société Française de Législation Comparée (French Society of Comparative Legislation). In addition, Curran is a member of the American Law Institute and International Academy of Comparative Law. She was also decorated in 2007 with one of the highest honors in the Republic of Austria for her work as the United States appointee to the Austrian General Settlement Fund Committee for Nazi-era property compensation.
Today’s lawyer and legal scholar must be prepared for a world of overlapping international legal configurations, particularly in the spheres of human rights and multinational corporations, topics on which Curran is frequently sought after to speak. She has given talks at universities in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, and Holland. Her articles have appeared in such publications as the Notre Dame Law Review, Hastings Law Journal, Boston College Law Review, Alberta Law Review, American Journal of Comparative Law, Revue Internationale de Droit Comparé, American Journal of International Law, Columbia Journal of European Law, Cornell International Law Journal, and as chapters in numerous books, including one coedited by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
The Ordre des Palmes Académiques capstones Curran’s exemplary legal scholarship, hard work, and the innovative practices she continues to impart on the Pitt Law community.