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William E. Butler

Distinguished Professor of Law, Penn State

William E. Butler specializes in international and comparative law, focusing principally on Russia, Eurasia generally, and public and private international law. A member of the Dickinson Law community since 2005, he served as Reader (1970-1976) and Professor of Comparative Law (1976-2005) in the University of London—attached to University College London—where he is presently Emeritus Professor of Comparative Law. In 1992, he was elected a Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, and in 2012, a Foreign Member of the National Academy of Legal Sciences of Ukraine. Both Ukrainian Academies have awarded him their Gold Medal for distinguished contributions to international and comparative legal scholarship, and the Supreme Court of Ukraine its medal “For Fidelity to Law”—all distinctions rarely awarded to foreigners.

Professor Butler has published widely in his chosen fields and been among those responsible for the development of Comparative International Law, having written widely on the subject; lectured at The Hague Academy of International Law (1985) on the subject; introduced LL.M. courses at University College London on the subject; and advised on syllabus reform to reflect this approach to interface between traditional comparative legal studies and public and private international law.

Professor Butler received his B.A. from the School of International Service, The American University (1961); M.A. from the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University (1963); J.D. from Harvard Law School (1966); LL.M. from the Academy University of Law, Institute of State and Law, Russian Academy of Sciences (1997); Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University (SAIS, 1970); and LL.D. from the University of London (1979). He has since received three honorary doctorates, most recently from the Kyiv University of Law (Ukraine) and the University of Uppsala (Sweden).

Professor Butler has been elected to the arbitrator panels of the international commercial arbitration courts of the Russian Federation (1995), Kazakhstan (2012), and Ukraine (2013), and also served as an arbitrator or expert in the Stockholm, London, Paris, Hague, and other arbitral tribunals.

At Dickinson Law, Professor Butler offers courses or seminars on Russian Law and Legal Institutions; International Investment Transactions; History of International Law, Law of the Sea, Law of Treaties, and International Human Rights Law. He is the founding editor of Jus Gentium: Journal of International Legal History (2016-) and co-founding editor of the Journal of Comparative Law (2005-).

By way of pastimes, Professor Butler is a bibliophile and bookplate collector, and member of The Grolier Club, Washington Rare Book Club, National Union of Bibliophiles (Russia), and former Executive Secretary of the International Federation of Exlibris Societies (1986-2016). Since 2019, he has served as Chairman of the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies.


  • –present
    Distinguished Professor of Law, Penn State
  • Centre County, Pennsylvania, U.S.
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