Professor Detlev Vagts (1929-2013)

The late Professor Detlev Vagts was a founding member of iQ’s Advisory Council. He was one of the original visionaries for the idea of a transnational law and policy think tank. He was named the Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School in 1984. Professor Vagts was a renowned scholar of international law and one of the world’s foremost experts on transnational business problems and the laws affecting international commerce. He wrote or edited more than 50 books and was the co-author of two casebooks, Professor Vagts wrote or edited more than 50 books and was the co-author of two casebooks, “Transnational Business Problems” and “Transnational Legal Problems”, which is in its fourth edition and widely regarded as the leading compendium of materials for scholars and students in the field.

Professor Vagts authored dozens of articles which contributed greatly to legal thinking, including “The International Legal Profession: A Need for More Governance?” (American Journal of International Law, 1996) which addressed problems pertaining to professional behavior in international litigation and advocated regulating international lawyers (including arbitrators).

From 1976 to 1977, Professor Vagts was a counselor on international law for the Department of State, where he worked at the Office of the Legal Advisor helping to negotiate treaties during the transition period between former presidents Ford and Carter. He served as an associate reporter of the Restatement (Third) of Foreign Relations Law of the United States, working with Andy Lowenfeld and Louis Sohn, under the chairmanship of Lou Henkin. Issued in 1987 by the American Law Institute, the restatement has been widely cited by the courts.
He later served as editor in chief, with Theodor Meron, of the American Journal of International Law, the leading publication in the field (from 1993 to 1998). He previously served as the journal’s book review editor.

In 1991, Professor Vagts was jointly awarded (with EBS Law Professor Werner F. Ebke) the Max Planck Research Award for outstanding international research achievements.

In 2010, Cambridge University Press published a festschrift paying tribute to Vagts: “Making Transnational Law Work in the Global Economy: Essays in honour of Detlev Vagts.” The publication brought together contributions from colleagues at HLS—including Steiner and Professor William Alford—and at the American Society of International Law, as well as from other academics, judges and practitioners, many of them his former students. The collection, edited by Pieter Bekker LL.M., Rudolf Dolzer and Michael Waibel, covers the spectrum of modern transnational law, from international law in general to transnational economic law to transnational lawyering and dispute resolution.