John W. Head

School of Law - Law School
Robert W. Wagstaff Distinguished Professor of Law
Primary office:
Green Hall, 415
University of Kansas
1535 W. 15th Street
Lawrence, KS 66045


Expertise and Current Research Activity

International relations – whether they focus on economic competition or political tension, on public institutions or private business – present ever-greater challenges. My scholarly work grapples with those challenges. My book Great Legal Traditions (published May 2011) examines contrasts between European civil law, English and US common law, and Chinese law from both a historical and an operational perspective. The book offers background to practitioners and others in working across legal systems. Similarly, my newly updated Global Business Law (published June 2012), provides a practitioner’s transaction-oriented guide to private-sector aspects of international commerce and investment, with special emphasis on nuts-and-bolts matters such as letters of credit, licensing agreements, the Vienna Sales Convention, and more.

I recently turned my attention to international legal regimes for the protection of native prairies and grasslands, of the kinds that cover most of Kansas and other neighboring states. Degradation of those natural grasslands is occurring around the world, with repercussions widely regarded now as no less severe than those resulting from deforestation. My research into this topic has taken me to Turkey and elsewhere. Hence my most recent book, Global Legal Regimes to Protect the World’s Grasslands (published November 2012) explores that aspect of international law and international relations. In addition to writing books, I take opportunities when they arise to teach overseas. For instance, on my Turkey trip I presented a concentrated course in Istanbul on the policies and operations of key international economic organizations. I presented a similar course to Korean students in the summer of 2011 and will do so again in London in March 2013. These various projects contribute to the larger tapestry of my work over the 22 years since I joined the law faculty at KU.

Building on ten years in legal practice (both private-sector and public-sector), my work here at the University has concentrated on international business law, international public law, and comparative law – in order to assist both private-sector practitioners and public-sector policy-makers.

Why Study at the University of Kansas?

The KU Law School features a smorgasbord of choices for someone interested in studying law, whether aiming for a practice in Midwestern USA or elsewhere in the world. Indeed, our International and Comparative Law Program offers a rich combination of opportunities through its broad internationally-oriented curriculum, its three international law moot court competitions, its summer-school and spring-semester overseas study programs, its vibrant International Law Society, its Certificate in International Trade and Finance, its Center for International Trade and Agriculture, and much more. You may be surprised at the career trajectory that a KU Law JD degree can place you on; and now we also offer a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) degree as well. This SJD Program attracts students from around the world, as does our Two-Year JD Program for Foreign Trained Lawyers. An added benefit to KU, of course, is that all of these academic and career-related opportunities are available in an affordable, civilized, and safe environment.


Teaching Interests

  • International law
  • International business
  • Comparative law
  • International economic development

Research Interests

  • International law
  • International business
  • Comparative law
  • International economic development
  • Agricultural law

Selected Publications

KU Today
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times