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Hans Smit

Hans Smit (1927– )
GSAS 1953, LLB 1958

If you attended the Columbia Law School during the past forty years and did not encounter Hans Smit, then you did not go to Columbia. Hans Smit can well serve as an emblem for the law school and all that it represents. An outstanding teacher, Hans Smit was the most imposing and impressive instructor that I have ever met.

His greatest lesson as far as I am concerned was perhaps his first. He related to the class the Latin motto inscribed over the entrance to the law school's former home Kent Hall: "Law is the art of the good and the just." This maxim and that lecture have remained with me ever since. Many years later I had the pleasure of taking a course at the Harvard Law School and met a man who was said to be the role model for the character of Professor Kingsfield in the novel/movie The Paper Chase. During our conversation the man asked me if there was a Kingsfield-like instructor at Columbia. I said yes and he is a Dutchman who stands about 6'2". When a few years after that I told Hans Smit this story, he smiled and corrected me. It turns out Professor Smit is actually 6'4". He is also a well-regarded authority on international law and the director of the Parker School, a leader in the field of international arbitration, and the author of numerous academic texts. He is also one of the most supportive faculty members at the law school helping countless students and it was he who gave Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg one of her first jobs out of law school. For his efforts on both sides of the Atlantic he has been knighted by the royal family of the Netherlands and earned the respect and admiration of all of those he has taught and helped for all these many years. That's Hans Smit in a nutshell.

Rudy Carmenaty, School of Law 1990, who is solely responsible for the content.

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