I received word from Dean David Schizer of Columbia Law School that Professor Hans Smit passed away on January 7, 2012. As Dean Schizer put it, Hans had been a powerful presence at the Law School for more than 50 years. Hans was a pioneering scholar and a distinguished practitioner in the field of international arbitration and international procedure.

One of Hans’s numerous accomplishments was the founding of the Columbia-Leiden-Amsterdam Summer Program in 1963. In 1965, when I was an assistant lecturer at the Law Faculty of Leiden University, I was fortunate to attend this month-long course in American law. This led to an invitation to work with Hans and his colleague Richard C. Pugh (currently professor emeritus at the University of San Diego Law School) on the Project of European Legal Institutions at Columbia Law School.

In 1967, Hans was instrumental in getting me admitted to the Law School, from which I graduated in 1969. Hans and Dick Pugh then helped me to become an associate at the international law firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

Hans Smit touched many lives, including many students who went on to become prominent lawyers and judges. He touched my life in an enormous way: basically, it was Hans who was responsible for my move to the United States, for my studies at Columbia and for inspiring my interest in international arbitration.

Hans was a towering figure at the Law School: not just because of his 6-foot-4-inch frame, but also because of his unique and exacting teaching methods, especially in civil procedure, with an emphasis on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He published many books and articles, including Smit’s Guides to International Arbitration (8 volumes) and The World Arbitration Reporter (6 volumes). He was also the editor-in-chief of the American Review of International Arbitration.

Hans will be missed by all whose lives he touched. Professor Smit is survived by his wife Beverly, his son Rob and daughter Marion.

By Eric Van Ginkel
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Eric van Ginkel is an international arbitrator and mediator, and an Adjunct Professor of Law in Dispute Resolution at the Straus Institute of Pepperdine University Law School. In addition to intellectual property matters, he handles a large variety of matters, including complex business and commercial real estate disputes. Eric was the co-editor of the IBA Mediation Newsletter until December of 2010. He serves as arbitrator and/or mediator for several US and international dispute resolution institutions.