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Study-Abroad Programs Provide Students with New Opportunities

published March 26, 2007

By Heather Jung
( 28 votes, average: 4.4 out of 5)
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<<According to the ABA, approved law schools "may not grant credit for studies or activities in a foreign country unless those studies or activities are approved in accordance with the Rules of Procedure and Criteria adopted by the Council. Outside of programs that meet these Criteria, an ABA-approved law school may not award credit toward the J.D. degree to an enrolled student for studies or activities outside the United States."

The ABA acknowledges three categories of study-abroad programs: summer programs, semester-abroad programs, and, on some occasions, cooperative programs between ABA-approved law schools and foreign institutions. Each of these types of programs has distinct criteria that must be met for students to receive credit. In general, students must have completed one year of law school and must be in good standing with the law school at which they are enrolled.

Cooperative Programs

Students who wish to individually study the law at foreign institutions may do so through ABA-approved cooperative programs. For a program to be approved, the "parent school" must be approved by the ABA, must "develop and publish a statement that defines the educational objectives" of the program, and must be responsible for the approval of coursework and monitor the student's studies.

The foreign school must:
  1. Be government sanctioned if education is regulated by the state within that country; recognized or approved by an evaluating committee; or chartered to award first degrees.
  2. Provide assurances to the parent school that the quality of education it offers is equal to the education the student would receive at his or her parent school. An institution that provides law training to students who have graduated from institutions that award first degrees in law may qualify.
  3. Appoint an advisor for each student who will monitor the student's progress and studies.
  4. Have faculty members who have academic credentials and experience in the legal profession.
The ABA has currently approved more than 40 cooperative study-abroad programs through universities such as American University, Cornell, and University of Wisconsin at destinations ranging from Hong Kong to Berlin to Florence.

The American University Washington College of Law in Washington, DC, has partnered with the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) to provide students with the opportunity to study international trade, commercial law, and comparative law, with an emphasis on Chinese law. As a former British colony, Hong Kong is a hub of legal, social, and political change, providing students with the chance to study international law in an ever-evolving legal system.

Students at Cornell University Law School can study law in Berlin, Germany, in the native language. At Humboldt University, Cornell students can earn both their J.D.s and Master of German and European Law and Practice (M.LL.P.) degrees. As the program is an informal agreement, students must comply with Humboldt's policies and application procedures.

Through the Wisconsin-European University Institute Exchange Program, students from the University of Wisconsin Law School study European law at the European University Institute, which was established by the European Union.

Semester-Abroad Programs

Through semester-abroad programs, students study law at foreign universities during the normal school year. While students enrolled in cooperative programs are fully integrated into foreign schools, students participating in semester-abroad programs take classes administered by the sponsoring law schools.

The academic content must meet the same criteria as an on-campus program and must also "relate to the socio-local environment of the host country. The number of students must also be limited to the appropriate number based on the facilities, number of faculty, program content, the administrative support structure, and special education programs."

As they take students away from the traditional law-school setting, there are only a handful of programs available, the majority of which are held in London.

The London Law Consortium is a partnership of seven law schools, Chicago-Kent College of Law, University of Georgia, Indiana University-Bloomington, University of Kansas, University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Utah, and University of Iowa, with the University of Iowa acting as the program administrator. The program is held each spring and gives students the chance to take classes on British law and participate in British legal externships.

Other schools that offer independent London programs are Boston College Law School, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Notre Dame Law School, Pace University School of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law, and University of Tulsa School of Law.

Temple University Beasley School of Law boasts the only semester-abroad program in Asia. Through the Semester Law Program in Tokyo, students spend their spring studying law in Japan's capitol city. The program is comprised of several standard law courses, as well as courses focused on international, comparative, and Asian legal studies, such as Introduction to Japanese Law, Introduction to Chinese Law, and East/West Negotiations. In addition to classes, students are given a broad range of extracurricular activities to choose from, including trips to the Supreme Court of Japan and Fuchu Prison.

The Thomas M. Cooley Law School hosts a spring program in Melbourne, Australia, and Christchurch, New Zealand. The "Down Under" law program is held in conjunction with Monash University in Australia and Canterbury University in New Zealand and focuses on comparative and international law.

This article explains what's really going on at Thomas Cooley Law SchoolThomas Cooley Law School Exposed (and Why Much of the Legal Profession is a Scam)

Foreign Summer Programs

With more than 200 programs available at law schools across the country, summer programs are by far the most popular. Criteria for the programs themselves are the same as the criteria for semester programs. Destinations range from traditional locales such as England, Italy, and France to more unique places such as the Czech Republic, Dubrovnik (Croatia), and Poland.

With two sessions available, students at California Western School of Law can travel to Prague in the Czech Republic to study international environmental law, international and comparative criminal procedure, international intellectual property, comparative consumer law, or international mediation. The program is sponsored by the Consortium for Innovative Legal Education, which includes California Western, South Texas College of Law, William Mitchell School of Law, and New England School of Law.

The Central and Eastern European Law Program allows students from Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis to earn six hours of ABA-approved credits while studying at the seaside resort of Dubrovnik, Croatia. The program is held in collaboration with the University of Zagreb School of Law. Available classes include Real Estate Acquisition and Ownership in Central and Eastern Europe and Legal Aspects of Doing Business in Central and Eastern Europe—from the American and the European Perspective.

The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law offers the International Business and Trade Summer Law Program in Krakow, Poland. According to the program brochure, students "receive intense training in the global aspects of modern trade and business law, as well as the changing dynamics of Central European politics and law" and "experience the history and culture of the city that 'ranks among the great artistic and cultural complexes of highest value in Europe.'" The program is hosted by Jagiellonian University and offers classes such as International Business Transactions and Law of the European Union.

Is Study Abroad Right for You?

Like many programs, study-abroad programs may not be right for everyone. There are multiple factors to consider when choosing whether to enroll in a study-abroad program. Some major issues to consider when applying for study-abroad programs are cost, location, and practicality. If you have specific questions, ask someone who has participated in the program you are considering or talk to someone in the office that coordinates the program.

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