Press Release

White & Case Marks the Opening of the First Law School in the Kingdom of Bhutan

Global law firm White & Case LLP celebrates a milestone in its nine-year collaboration with The Kingdom of Bhutan: the formal opening of the Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law (JSW Law), the country's first law school, which will hold its grand opening on July 29, 2017.

The law school is chartered by the current King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who invited White & Case to assist in the law school's development. The law school is named after the current king's father, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan.

His Majesty appointed his sister—Harvard LLM graduate Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck—to head the project as President of JSW Law. She is assisted by the Governing Council of JSW Law, which is chaired by the Chief Justice of Bhutan, Tshering Wangchuk. The Dean of the law school is Sangay Dorjee, an experienced educator and administrator. 

"This day has been many years in the making," said White & Case Chairman Hugh Verrier. "We are honored to have worked together with the Royal Government of Bhutan. The Firm's involvement stems from our ongoing commitment to legal education around the world. This law school will play a crucial part in advancing Bhutan's inspiring transition to democracy."

In the first phase of our work together, which began in 2008, Princess Sonam and White & Case established Bhutan's first law library, with a cross-office multifunction team from the Firm providing technical assistance. Since that time, White & Case has provided pro bono legal advice as well as administrative and fundraising assistance for the new law school. The Firm also recruited two American scholars—Michael Peil and Judy Stark—to be the Vice Dean of the new law school and Associate Dean for Library and Information Services, respectively. There are 13 faculty members in total from various legal backgrounds, eight from Bhutan and four from the United States.

A competitive application process over the past year led to the selection of the first class of 25 Bhutanese law students, who will study for five years to earn a Bhutanese law degree. Nearly 500 students in their last year of high school applied, and 132 of these students qualified to sit for the first Bhutanese Law School Admission Test. The 50 shortlisted finalists were invited to a 45-minute interview with JSW Law's admissions committee. Finalists were then ranked, with the top 25—13 women and 12 men—offered seats in the law school's first entering class.

The incoming class has completed one month of orientation coursework centering on Bhutanese constitutional structures and history, the nature of law and legal practice, and legal study skills. Formal coursework in the first semester will consist of the law of torts, philosophy, composition and rhetoric, economics and Rigzhung—which is Bhutanese language, grammar and usage.

"These law students will benefit from a carefully constructed curriculum that keeps Bhutan's proud history and traditions at the forefront," said White & Case partner and Global Pro Bono Practice Leader Jacquelyn MacLennan. "We hope they will become lawyers who can play a leading role in Bhutan's continuing development, through their understanding of international legal practice and principles as well as Bhutan's particular position."

To ensure equal access, students pay no tuition. In addition to the Royal Government of Bhutan and White & Case, the school is currently supported by the Government of India, the Austrian Development Agency and the US-based Karuna Foundation.

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