In 2014, White & Case committed to assist the Royal Institute of Law Secretariat in establishing the first law school in the Kingdom of Bhutan.
The law school will train the first generation of lawyers and judges skilled in internationally recognized legal principles and practices, including Bhutanese law and practice. It will support the judiciary, the legislature, and civil-society organizations as Bhutan's first center for research and analysis of Bhutanese law, regulations, and legal practice. To capitalize on Bhutan's competitive advantages, the law school's research will focus on alternative dispute resolution, environmental law, and sustainable development. The first class of 25 students will be admitted in the fall of 2017.
Her Royal Highness Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck serves as President of the project. Her brother, His Majesty, The King of Bhutan, has established a Secretariat, headed by a full-time senior civil servant, Mr. Sangay Dorjee. The Secretariat is tasked with designing and building the campus, creating a curriculum and staffing pattern for the law school, preparing student and staff recruiting materials, and drafting a Charter and Bylaws for the law school. The Secretariat is aided by an Advisory Board, consisting of high-ranking officials from the Palace, the Ministry of Education, the Royal Civil Service Commission, the Judiciary, and other ministries and agencies. It is also supported by ad hoc committees of experts drawn from the public and private sector.
White & Case recruited an American law school administrator with considerable experience in international legal education to work with the Secretariat to help develop and implement the project plan for the law school. He contributes curricular, governance, and operational expertise to the project and leverages the White & Case global network where appropriate. White & Case will also help identify and recruit top international teaching and research faculty, institutional partners, and donors.
Fourth Quarter 2014 - Curriculum, Staffing Pattern, and Human Resources Development Plan finalized
First Quarter 2015 - Formal groundbreaking for campus
Fourth Quarter 2016 - Construction of major buildings completed
Spring 2017 - Campus opens; faculty moves in and begins final preparations
August 2017 - First class of 25 law students admitted
At the close of the 20th century, His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan instituted changes that brought Bhutan from an isolated absolute monarchy to an internationally engaged constitutional system. Since 2006, the pace of change has accelerated: the Fourth King has voluntarily stepped down, the first constitution was ratified, and Bhutan witnessed the coronation of its first constitutional monarch, His Majesty the Fifth King of Bhutan. The Bhutanese people have formed the country's first political parties and, in 2008, voted in the first general parliamentary elections. Five years later, the Kingdom passed the first test of a stable democracy, as the ruling party was voted out of power and peacefully handed over the reins to the present government.
Bhutan has made great strides since 2008 to introduce and empower the legal institutions necessary to support the rule of law. However, because Bhutan has no law school, all judges and lawyers are trained abroad and follow foreign curricula which do not reflect the needs and priorities of Bhutanese society. There are far too few Bhutanese lawyers for Bhutan's current and future needs, and they have not been trained to deal with Bhutan's unique historical, economic, societal, and geopolitical situation.
White & Case's relationship with the Kingdom of Bhutan was initiated and continues to be overseen by its chairman Hugh Verrier. White & Case lawyers provide, on average, more than 80,000 hours of pro bono services annually. Promoting the rule of law and good sovereign governance is one of the strategic goals of the firm's global pro bono practice. White & Case began its pro bono engagement with Bhutan in 2009, when it completed a comprehensive needs assessment on legal education with the permission of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan. White & Case has also funded and provided expertise for the first national law library and has taught several seminars for lawyers and judges in Bhutan.
In the autumn of 2015, the law school will begin a campaign to raise $30 million in principle for an endowment. This endowment will ensure that the law school, though publically administered, will not place a significant ongoing burden on Bhutan's already stretched national budget.