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International Perspectives on Legal Education

Lessons From Law Students Around the World         
                                               
                                                      
 
This semester, rather than return to the hallowed halls of my every day law school, I decided to mix things up a little bit and study abroad. Come September, I left sunny California behind, packed my forgotten winter clothing, and headed off for four months in Hamburg, Germany. 
 
For the past three months I’ve been taking international business law classes from professors from all over the world at a prestigious German law school. The coolest part of the experience, however, has definitely been sitting in a classroom and grabbing lunch with students from dozens of different countries. The program I’m in has over 100 international exchange students, and 60 percent are from countries other than the United States. And, of course, there are more German students roaming the halls than you can shake a stick at.
 
Sitting in the classroom and hearing from non-American professors, learning about non-American laws and legal theory, and weighing the comments of my non-American peers has made me think a lot about my American education. Our law schools by and large do a wonderful job of teaching us all about American law – and studying for the bar will fill in the gaps in our knowledge. But you can easily get through law school without thinking about how uniquely American our legal education and legal system is, for better or for worse.
 
So, I thought I’d take advantage of my time here to take a quick poll of some international friends. I sent a note out asking for thoughts on things that struck people as different about the way the Americans they know approach law or legal education. I got back some interesting responses, and I’ll share a few of them with you below.
 
If your interest is piqued by the quotes below, I recommend reaching out to someone you know who has studied abroad, or to LLM students at your law school, treating them to coffee, and learning more about what a legal education is like outside the United States. And if you’re really interested . . . study abroad!
 
 
 
“Americans focus a lot more on jurisdiction arguments. I’ve never thought about that as we simply do not have a federal system!” – Jordan W., New Zealand
 
“We don’t really do case studies. You have a more practical approach. We do a ‘scientific’ study of the law and learn to apply it in a three year, more or less mandatory, internship after we graduate.” – Quico Q., Belgium
 
“There is no bar exam at home. After high school, you go to university (four to six years of studies), and once you are done, you are a full-fledged lawyer. You only need to register yourself at the local bar association to practice in each jurisdiction of the country.” – Ernesto V., Argentina
 
“U.S. lecturers take more pride in how they lecture. Australian lecturers often seem to be there mostly to research and consider teaching a waste of their time. American students have far less patience for boring, unstructured, or otherwise unsatisfactory lecturing than we do!” – Amy K., Australia
 
“We have a ten month ‘articling’ period after we graduate. Usually people complete their articles with a law firm, but it can also be done with a government department or some other agency. We write the bar exam prior to articling, and then are called to the bar after we complete our articles.” – Dominique Z., Canada
 
“Argentineans usually work while they study law. If you don’t, it will be harder to compete while looking for your first job.” – Geraldine Z., Argentina