Alison W. Conner

  • Professor of Law
  • Director, International Programs
  • LLM Faculty Adviser
  • Chancellor’s Citation for Meritorious Teaching


  • BA high honors University of Florida 1967
  • MA Cornell University 1970
  • JD Harvard Law School 1973
  • PhD Cornell University 1979


Alison W. Conner joined the faculty in 1995 after nearly twelve years of teaching and research in Asia. She earned her Ph.D. in Chinese and Southeast Asian history at Cornell University and her law degree at Harvard Law School, where she specialized in Asian and comparative law and was a research fellow in the East Asian Legal Studies Program. Following law school, she taught Chinese and East Asian history and then spent five years practicing law on Wall Street before moving to Asia in 1983.

During the 1983-84 academic year, she taught as a Senior Fulbright Professor at the University of Nanjing's Department of Law,  in one of the first Fulbright groups to return to China since 1949.  From 1984 to 1986 she was a member of the Law Faculty of the National University of Singapore, teaching courses in Singapore law.  In 1986 she joined the University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Law, where she taught both Hong Kong and Chinese law as a tenured member of the faculty.  In 2004 she returned to China on her second Fulbright award and taught comparative law as a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer in Law at Beijing's Tsinghua University.  She has also taught at the Duke-Hong Kong University Asia-America Institute in Transnational Law, the University of Hong Kong School of Professional and Continuing Education, the University of London LL.B. (external) program offered in Hong Kong, and at the La Trobe Faculty of Law and Management in Melbourne, Australia.  In December 1999, she was an invited faculty member in the Salzburg Seminar's session on "China and the Global Community," and in June 2004 she returned as faculty convener for a Salzburg Seminar special session on East Asia-the United States.   

Since joining the Law School from Asia, Professor Conner has continued her strong China focus in teaching, research and  administration activities.  In addition to teaching courses such as Business Associations, she introduced new courses on Chinese law and legal history, including Law and Society in China, Chinese Business Law and Asian Comparative Law.  In 2007, she organized a conference on "Dispute Resolution in China," which was co-sponsored by the Oxford Foundation on Law, Justice and Society.  In 2011 and 2012 she organized or co-organized joint symposia on Asian law with Sydney Law School, and in 2010 a symposium celebrating the eightieth birthday of Professor Jerome A. Cohen and his fifty years of contributions to the study of Chinese law.  She has also been actively involved in University of Hawai‘i/Mānoa Center for Chinese Studies committees, including its executive committee, and has often participated in its seminar series and graduate seminars.  In 2013-14 she organized the first semester-long study abroad program in China for undergraduate students at the University.  

Professor Conner has also continued her involvement in international legal education and exchange programs, including those for visiting professors and visiting scholars at the Law School.  She helped to create the first certificate in Pacific-Asian Legal Studies for law students, and she established the Asia Law Talks program for students and colleagues.  She also founded the Law School’s LLM Program for Foreign Lawyers, introduced the basic LLM courses, and ran the program from 2002-2006.  She currently serves as director of international programs and has worked to launch an SJD degree as well as the Advanced JD program for foreign-trained law graduates at the Law School.  Outside the University, she serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Chinese Law, University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, and she is a research fellow at the Law and Society Center at Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Law.  From 1996-2008, she served as external examiner for Chinese law courses at the Department of Law, School of Oriental and African Studies, London University.

Since 1995, she has been a member of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Comparative Law and from 2001 to 2003 she served on the Society's Executive Committee; in 2008 she was elected secretary of the Society and served until 2012.  In 2005 she was the convener and organizer of the conference at the Society's Annual Meeting on Multiple Sovereignties: Federalism in the 21st Century, which was co-sponsored by the Law School and the East-West Center; this was the first time the Society had met in Hawai'i.  She has been a member of the board of editors of the American Journal of Comparative Law since 1995, and of the editorial board of the Journal of Comparative Law since 2005.  In 2006 she was elected an associate member of the International Academy of Comparative Law.  In 2005-2008, she also served as a member of the International Cooperation Committee of the AALS. 

Professor Conner writes on modern Chinese law and Chinese legal history, especially in areas relating to the legal profession and legal education, including “Legends of the Legal Academy” (2011), “Training China’s Lawyers: Enduring Influences and Disconnects (2010) and “The Comparative Law School of China” (2003).  But she also maintains her broader interests in Asian history, art and cinema; her most recent research has focused on the depiction of law and the legal system in classic Chinese movies, which she loved when she first saw them in Hong Kong in the 1980s.  Her articles in this area include “Movie Justice: The Legal System in Pre-1949 Chinese Film,” (2010), “Images of Justice (and Injustice) in the Movies of Xie Jin” (2013), “Don't Change Your Husband: Divorce in Early Chinese Movies” (2008), and “The Lawyer Who Haunts Us: Yin Zhaoshi and the Bright Day” (forthcoming 2014).  A frequent speaker on the topic, she served as co-convener of two law and film symposia (in 2012 and 2013) and organized the Law & Film Institute at the Law School.

She has been awarded grants for research in Taiwan and Shanghai from the Inter-University Program, the Committee on Scholarly Communication with China, and the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation.  During the 1999-2000 academic year, she was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.  In 2001 and 2010, Professor Conner was selected as Outstanding Law Professor of the Year, and in 2002 and 2011 she received a Chancellor's Citation for Meritorious Teaching.


  • "The Lawyer Who Haunts Us: Yin Zhaoshi and the Bright Day" (forthcoming 2014)

  • "Images of Justice and Injustice: Trials in the Movies of Xie Jin," 35 Hawaii Law Review 805 (2013).

  • “Training China’s Lawyers: Enduring Influences and Disconnects,” in Stanley Lubman, ed., The Evolution of Law Reform in China: An Uncertain Path (2012). [Originally published in Albert Chen and John Gillespie, Legal Development in East Asia: China and Vietnam Compared (Routledge 2010).]
  • "Legends of the Legal Academy: Jerome Alan Cohen," 60 Journal of Legal Education 687 (2011).
  • "Movie Justice: The Legal System in Pre-1949 Chinese Film," 12 Asian-Pacific Law and Policy Journal 1 (Winter 2010).
  • "Bench and Bar: Lawyers and Judges in Early Chinese Movies," 39 Hong Kong Law Journal 575 (2010).
  • “History of Chinese Law: The Republic 1911-49,” “Confessions,” “Confession and Acceptance of Sentence in Chinese Law,” and “Lawyers in Chinese Law,” in Stanley N. Katz, ed., Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History (Oxford University Press 2009).
  • "Anglo-American Law at Soochow," in Daniel Bay and Ellen Widmer, eds., China's Christian Colleges: Cross Cultural Connections, 1900-50 (Stanford University Press 2009).
  • "Don't Change Your Husband: Divorce in Early Chinese Movies," 40 Connecticut Law Review 1247 (2008).
  • "English as a Second Language for Americans?" 36 International Journal of Legal Information 94 (2008).
  • "Chinese Lawyers on the Silver Screen," in Mark Sidel and Corey Creekmur, Cinema, Law, and the State in Asia (Palgrave 2007).
  • "Soochow in the South," 2 Soochow Law Journal 1 (2005).
  • "The Comparative Law School of China," in C. Stephen Hsu, ed., Understanding China's Legal System (New York University Press, 2003). A Chinese translation of this article appears in 15 Zhongwai Faxue [Peking University Law Journal] 680 (Dec. 2003); and in Gao Hongjun, He Weifang and Karen Turner, eds., Meiguo Xuezhe Lun Zhongguo Falu Chuantong [Recent American Academic Writings on Traditional Chinese Law] (Beijing: Tsinghua University Press, rev. ed. 2003) 579-655.
  • "How I Got the Story (and Why It Took So Long): Legal Research in China" 2 Washington University Global Studies Law Review 193 (2003).
  • "Chinese Confessions and the Use of Torture," in Bernard Durand, ed., La Torture Judiciare: Approches historiques et juridiques (Centre d'Histoire Judiciare, Universite Montpelier, 2002) 63.


  • Outstanding Professor of Law Award, William S. Richardson School of Law, 2010.
  • External Examiner (Chinese law LL.M. courses), Department of Law, School of Oriental and African Studies, London University, 1994-2008.
  • Member, International Cooperation Committee, Association of American Law Schools, 2005-2008.
  • Member, Board of Directors, American Society of Comparative Law; Board of Editors, American Journal of Comparative Law, 1995 to present. Member, Executive Committee, 2001-2003; secretary, 2008 to present.
  • Associate Member, International Academy of Comparative Law, 2006 to present.
  • Member, Editorial Board, The Journal of Comparative Law, 2005 to present.
  • Member, Advisory Board, Centre for Chinese Law, University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, 2008 to present.