The history of the program

The history of the program

The history of the program


In 1963, Columbia professors joined a class of international students in Leiden for a month-long immersion in American legal education. That gathering was the dream of a Dutchman named Hans Smit, who graduated from Amsterdam University, earned a law degree from Columbia Law School, and went on to teach at Columbia for many decades. Hans’ goal in this Program was to offer civil law students an opportunity to experience the intense debate and discussion that is central to American legal education. Hans also wanted to create a community in which debate and discussion spilled out of the classroom and into cafes, parks, and excursions around Holland.

For more than 50 years now, students and professionals from all over the world have joined us in the picturesque Dutch cities of Leiden or Amsterdam for the Columbia Summer Program to continue this tradition. During just four short weeks, we will create a community. It will begin in the classroom, where we will explore the foundations of American law. The community will solidify in daily lunches, occasional dinners and events, and the moot court, where the distinction between professor and student will disappear. We will become colleagues and friends, and I think you will discover that we have forged a durable community.

We look forward to meeting you!