Ever since I can remember, I have been interested in how people across the world have used law to organize their communities in profoundly different ways. My love of law and its development grew while I was in school, at Stanford and Yale, and in time I wrote three books on the subject: The Rule of the Clan, Black Trials, and Americans without Law.
In 2001, I got married, bought a house, and began teaching at Rutgers School of Law in Newark, New Jersey. I adored my students, and I relished the opportunity to introduce them to the American constitutional tradition. But my commute to work was three hours door-to-door, and my life was getting out of balance. What’s more, I was continually taken away from the basic questions that had drawn me to a scholar’s life to begin with.
A Fulbright Fellowship through the U.S. Department of State brought me and my wife, Stephanie, to a small town in northern Iceland. For five months, we lived a much slower, simpler life—it was beautiful—and the lack of institutional obligations freed me to share my passion for the study of legal differences far more than I ever could as a harried professor with an extreme commute. I asked myself, why not try to reproduce this life at home?
After some years of scrimping and saving, we made the leap. In 2012, I let my Dean know that I would not be returning the following year (thanks to his generosity, I am still formally on the faculty), and I moved my books from my office in New Jersey to our home in Connecticut.
This website is a forum in which I’ll be sharing my interest in law around the world and exploring issues I could only consider at a glance as a professor. I’ll be telling stories, commenting on contemporary events, and musing about legal history in ways that I hope you’ll find exciting even—in fact, especially—if you have no previous knowledge about law. I’ll also be experimenting with ways to write about and present global legal ideas to a general audience, including through the audio and video resources of the Web.
I hope that in time my posts will lead me to the subject of my next book—which is why your comments or questions are warmly welcome.
Update, March 4, 2013. I’ve created a small autobiographical photo essay for my publisher’s website. You can read it here. It describes who I am through some of the objects I see every day.