Professor returns to his roots with work in India

By Lynn Monson

Legal News

On a law school faculty with many distinguished international law scholars, Professor Vikramaditya Khanna adds a distinctive personal and academic history.

The class he taught last year in Delhi, India - to students there and in Ann Arbor at the same time - was a homecoming of sorts for the 40-year-old professor.

Known as "Vic" to friends and colleagues, Khanna is a native of India, but he lived there less than four years before his parents, both academics, began their educational journey around the world.

That path took Khanna to Kenya for a short time, then to the United States while his parents pursued their graduate studies. From the time he was age 4 through 14, he lived for various periods in Indiana, Georgia, Minnesota, and Kansas. The family then moved to New Zealand, where Khanna completed high school, a bachelor's degree and his first law degree, all by the time he was 21.

He came back to the U.S. to attend Harvard for his master's in law, followed by a Doctor of Juridical Science, the most advanced law degree for aspiring legal academics.

He developed academic interests and specialties in corporate and securities law, white-collar crime, law and economics, corporate governance in emerging markets and law in India.

He taught at Northwestern and Boston University before the U-M Law School hired him as a full professor in 2004 when he was 32. In 2008, the university's student paper, The Michigan Daily, profiled him as U-M's youngest tenured professor. He recalled that when he started teaching at age 25, many of his students were his age or older.

He has been a visiting faculty member at Harvard, and was a senior research fellow at the Columbia and Yale law schools. He was a visiting scholar at Stanford Law School, and his research has been published in numerous national law reviews and journals. He testified before the U.S. Congress and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the prestigious non-partisan think tank based in Washington.

He is the founding and current editor of The India Law Abstracts and The White Collar Crime Abstracts on the Social Science Research Network. He has made presentations around the country and in several foreign countries.

U-M Law School Dean Evan Caminker notes that the law school's long focus on international law is one of its strengths.

"So it should come as no surprise that a scholar of Vic Khanna's stature would find a home here," Caminker said. "As trade ties grow between India, China, the United States, and the rest of the world, the kind of expertise that we've cultivated here with Vic and the many other international law experts on our faculty is going to even more valuable."

A soft-spoken and articulate man with an easy laugh, Khanna moves easily in conversation from more universal themes of law and economics to his more narrowly focused expertise on issues in India.

He usually traveled to India once a year when he was growing up and now goes several times a year to conduct business and see family members. For many years before teaching the class there last year, he and several academic colleagues have run an ongoing survey of corporate governance practices by Indian firms. Khanna knew that coming to U-M, with its international emphasis, would likely lead to even more work in his native country.

"I'd always had an interest in India," he says. "I wasn't sure if it would manifest itself in teaching in this manner, but the opportunity to do so - which is probably influenced by the globalization of legal education - was great and something I was happy to be able to do."

He said his parents are pleased to see his increased involvement in the family homeland.

"I'm not sure they had necessarily thought I would teach a course like this in India, but I think they also appreciated how interesting and enriching it could be," he said.

It seems likely that Khanna will have a front row seat at India's economic evolution for years to come.

"The kinds of things that are happening where growth is occurring - it's breathtaking to watch," he says.

Published: Mon, Feb 13, 2012

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