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Penn State Law LL.M. alumnus rises to the top

Ylli Dautaj, Penn State Law in University Park LL.M. Class of 2018, was recently appointed as a Teaching Fellow at Durham Law School in Durham, United Kingdom.
Ylli Dautaj

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Ylli Dautaj, Penn State Law in University Park LL.M. Class of 2018, was recently appointed as a Teaching Fellow at Durham Law School in Durham, United Kingdom. With a law program ranked in the top 50 in the world according to QS world rankings, Dautaj will start teaching World Trade Organization Law and International Investment Law in September. “Durham is also in a college town like Penn State. I really wanted to be in a town that is focused around the university,” said Dautaj.

This new chapter will add another university to Dautaj’s resume where he’s continued a notable legal education. Before enrolling at Penn State Law, Dautaj earned his bachelor’s degree in law at Örebro University in Sweden, his LL.B. at Cork University in Ireland, and an LL.M. at Uppsala University in Sweden. Dautaj is now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and will submit his thesis at the end of July 2022.

Stephen Barnes, assistant dean of graduate and international programs at Penn State Law, said, “I run into Ylli wherever I travel: in the U.S., Sweden, India, and as far away as Kazakhstan. He is the Sven Hedin [famous 20th century Swedish explorer] of legal academics.”

Dautaj’s new role at Durham will give him the opportunity to devote his time to what he enjoys most: academia. He began teaching in 2019 at Uppsala University and has continued to take teaching opportunities. “I’m primarily interested in academics. I write research papers and books and I’ve done this throughout my career. I was an academician in India for two years,” said Dautaj.

The night before Dautaj was set to graduate from Penn State Law, Barnes informed Dautaj of a new teaching opportunity as an adjunct professor at Nirma University Institute of Law in Ahmedabad, India—a partner school of Penn State Law—for the fall 2018 semester. Barnes said, “Ylli had never traveled to India before, and without offering any additional information about this opportunity in Ahmedabad, Ylli said, ‘I’m all in. How do I apply?’”

Dautaj accepted a six-month appointment from Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal, founding dean of the School of Law, Forensic Justice, and Policy Studies and former dean of Institute of Law, Nirma University. Pokhariyal said, “Dautaj is an outstanding scholar who brought new energy and zeal in mooting.” He coached Nirma’s first Vis Moot team and traveled to Vienna with the team in its first year. Dautaj extended his time in India for another six months in Nirma and then took up another year-long appointment at Jindal Global Law School.

“Most of us have 24-hour days and work in one time zone” said Barnes. “Somehow, Ylli manages to squeeze 36 hours into one day.”

While running his law firm, DER Juridik, of about 20-25 associates in Stockholm with his brother, Alban Dautaj, Penn State Law LL.M. Class of 2018, and completing his doctoral studies in Edinburgh, Dautaj experienced legal life in a managerial position. Dautaj gave his full attention to helping the firm’s attorneys with their work. In order to get his own work done, he would get to the office by 5 a.m. Once the workday was over, he would work on academics from 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. “I’m looking forward to when I can have the entire day to do academic work and work with students,” he said.

As an adjunct professor at his alma mater, Penn State Law, Dautaj taught International Commercial Arbitration and Investment Treaty Arbitration. Voted by students as recipient (“Honoree”) of the LL.M. Teaching Award by the LL.M. Class of 2022, his students appreciate his blend of scholarship and practical skills training.

LL.M. 2022 graduate Shakhzoda Tuychieva of Uzbekistan appreciated Dautaj’s individualized approach to each student. “The professor-student interaction is unique. His classes are helpful not only for those students taking their first steps in the arbitration field, but also for experienced arbitrators. Professor Dautaj’s classes have lively discussions and are filled with lots of new information.”

Rising third-year J.D. student and Skadden summer associate Victoria Crynes shared how Dautaj treated his 70 Penn State Law students for pizza and ice cream. “In moments like these, we see that Professor Dautaj is a regular guy—who just happens to be incredibly brilliant and talented,” said Crynes.

While Dautaj is ready to primarily focus on teaching and research, he understands the importance of balance between academia and practice. “I believe that it is impossible to make a change through law if you do not understand and appreciate its theoretical underpinnings. Conversely, I do not believe that you can teach effectively without having hands-on practical experience. The two inform each other and neither can function in isolation. More than that, though, I just love to read, work on my ideas, test them, and write my analysis of a given issue—that is my hobby and passion. Hopefully, someone, somewhere will be persuaded either by the content or the process.”

Dautaj continues to publish extensively in law journals around the world, including: The International Lawyer, Northwestern Journal of Business and Law, Fordham International Law Journal, Cornell International Law Journal, Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, Dispute Resolution Journal, and Manchester Journal of International Economic Law, etc.

He has published one book, Investors, States, and Arbitrators in the Crosshairs of International Investment Law and Environmental Protection, and has a forthcoming book titled Digital Hearings—Civil Procedure and Arbitration Procedures, to be published later this year by Norstedts Juridik, a leading publisher in Scandinavia. Dautaj, along with fellow Penn State alumnus Bruno Gustafsson, and two other co-authors, will have a book launch for Digital Hearings on October 13 in Stockholm. They also plan to organize a book launch in New York. Penn State Law will be a knowledge partner for the two events. 

Dautaj credits Penn State Law with providing him the tools and opportunities to be successful in the legal field. “Penn State Law gave me everything. There is absolutely not a possibility on the face of this planet where I would be where I am today without Penn State. It’s as simple as that. Everything from legal analysis to how you treat people to how you interact with students, how you show appreciation—I mean everything.”

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