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Aviation law institute showcases student and faculty research in action

Thomas Wangard knew he wanted to combine his love for aviation with his passion for the law when he considered taking the law school plunge.

That is why it was an easy decision to choose DePaul’s College of Law when he discovered its International Aviation Law Institute (IALI).

“I realized studying with the institute was the perfect route for me,” says Wangard, who is now a third-year law student. “The institute has exposed me to substantive aviation law, government policy and some of the individuals who were instrumental in enacting both. I have had the great opportunity to learn directly from the aviation industry’s titans.”

IALI is just a single example of the College of Law’s investment in experiential learning and faculty enrichment through clinics and institutes.

The law school boasts 15 centers and institutes focusing on a range of issues from criminal defense and family law to intellectual property and cultural heritage law. Each has helped students parlay classroom learning into hands-on experience, while offering faculty a forum to spotlight their academic acumen.

Established in 2004 by distinguished research professor of law and international aviation scholar Brian F. Havel, IALI is the only international aviation law institute in the United States. IALI quickly embraced its mission of educating the next generation of aviation law and policy experts, and has become a valuable resource to help students gain practical experience in international law. The institute also is a sought-after source of information for academics and policymakers around the world, and has given faculty and students the opportunity to consider cutting-edge aviation law issues as they come to the fore.

“The institute allows students to put their legal skills to work in real-life settings that enrich them beyond the typical law school classroom experience,” says Steve Rudolph, executive director.

“Working with the institute equips students to hit the ground running upon graduation, and [to] thrive in the legal profession.”

Some of the ways the institute has expanded opportunities for students and faculty is by becoming a leader in the aviation legal arena. Fifteen to 25 students are involved with the institute each semester. They not only take classes in aviation law and policy, but some also work with practicing attorneys in government service and private practice through paid clerkships and unpaid externships.

They also assist law faculty as research assistants and help edit the institute’s scholarly journal, “Issues in Aviation Law and Policy.” With a global reputation, the institute often helps impact policy decisions. Faculty and students work with partners in such locations as Europe and China. For example, Havel coauthored a major paper that focused on the many unsettled legal questions that remained after the European Union Court of Justice issued a ruling validating the inclusion of non-European airlines in the Emissions Trading Scheme. The institute’s strong alliance with China made possible a visiting scholar and academic exchange program with Beihang University. “The institute has helped to foster more collegial dialogue and better understanding between the United States and Chinese governments on matters pertaining to international civil aviation,” says Rudolph. “A few years ago, the institute hosted Li Jiaxiang, administrator of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, and an honorary member of the institute’s faculty. When he spoke at DePaul’s law school, he emphasized the importance of our good relationship in his remarks.”

The clinic and institute experience can launch careers. “I have had the opportunity to talk to high-level representatives from law firms, the government, aviation trade groups, aircraft manufacturing and airlines,” says Wangard. “Through these interactions, I was able to set up an internship with the Federal Aviation Administration. My work at the FAA led to a Law Review article and opened the door to my current job at a law firm that specializes in aviation-related litigation.”


This article first appeared in DePaul University's VISION twenty12 Final Report.