Geoffrey Watson

Professor Geoffrey R. Watson is the director of the Comparative and International Law Institute. He succeeds Professor Rett R. Ludwikowski, who served as director from the program’s inception in 1985 until 2015.

Professor Watson began his career as an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State in Washington from 1987-91. He spent two years in the Office of Law Enforcement and Intelligence (L/LEI), where he specialized in international extradition and international narcotics matters, and two years in the Office of Near East and South Asian Affairs (L/NEA), where he specialized in legal aspects of U.S. Middle East policy, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 1991 Professor Watson joined the faculty of what is now the Seattle University School of Law, where he taught international law, international human rights law, national security law, and related subjects. He joined Catholic Law as a visiting professor in 1995 and joined the full-time faculty in 1998. Here at Catholic Law, he has taught public international law, international human rights law, international criminal law, comparative law, comparative constitutional law, and legal aspects of the Middle East peace process.

Professor Watson is the author or co-author of two books, including The Oslo Accords: International Law and the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreements (Oxford University Press, 2000), as well as many book chapters and law review articles. His writing focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, but he has also written on human rights law, international criminal law, contract law, legal history, and freedom of religion in international law.


I am delighted to introduce you to the Comparative and International Law Institute here at the Columbus School of Law. The goal of the Institute is to prepare you to practice law in an increasingly global legal environment. Careers in comparative and international law can take various shapes. The Institute aims to help prepare you for several such careers.

A lawyer who practices “private international law” focuses on the legal rules governing international business transactions. These jobs sometimes involve work at private law firms, either overseas or here in the United States, and sometimes as in-house counsel at corporations, again either here or abroad. If this sort of career interests you, you should consider taking courses with a focus on international trade and business. We offer a variety of such courses on a rotating basis, including courses on comparative and international trade, international business transactions, international securities regulation, international intellectual property law, alternate dispute resolution, international arbitration, or conflicts of law, as well as our foundational courses in public international law (the law governing relations among nations) and comparative law (the study of domestic laws of other countries). The precise selection of available courses will vary from year to year; not every course is offered every year. I will be delighted to meet with each of you individually to help you choose the menu of courses best suited for you.

A lawyer who practices “public international law” focuses on the rules governing relations among nations, such as the rules governing treaties, or sometimes on rules governing relations between nations and their citizens, such as those governing international criminal law and international human rights. Typically, careers in public international law involve government service, either here or abroad, in agencies like the Departments of State, Justice, Defense, or the national security and intelligence agencies. I encourage students to cast their net widely: almost every federal agency, from the Department of Agriculture to the EPA to the Transportation Department, has an office of international affairs. What’s more, there is at least some private practice in public international law: a few boutique law firms specialize in areas like international human rights litigation and international criminal defense. If this sort of career interests you, then you should consider taking a variety of courses in public international law. Again, we offer a variety of such courses on a rotating basis, including courses in international human rights law, international criminal law, international environmental law, a seminar on human trafficking, immigration law, and international intellectual property law. Again, not every such course will be available every semester, and again, I will be happy to meet with you to help plan your schedule.

I also urge students to think more broadly about careers in the international area. Not every graduate of law school needs to practice law. If you’re interested in foreign policy, consider taking the U.S. Foreign Service Exam. Some 10% of U.S. Foreign Service Officers hold the J.D. degree, and these officers tend to do particularly well in the Foreign Service, as so much of a State Department employee’s work revolves around interpretation and application of law. Or consider looking for work on Capitol Hill, where the foreign relations committees and individual members’ offices need lawyers who can help draft and mark up legislation. If you’re interested in politics, think about volunteering for a political campaign and working for the candidate’s foreign-policy team. We can talk more about these and other alternatives as your law school career progresses.

Candidly, comparative and international law is a competitive field, especially in today’s tight legal marketplace. If you want a job in this field, you will need to work hard, and you may need to take some risks. But we’re proud that many of our Institute’s alumni have secured interesting and fulfilling jobs in the field. I will do my best to help you join their ranks.

Professor Geoffrey R. Watson