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Law Students can study Abroad through William & Mary Law

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William & Mary's Marshall-Wythe School of Law is the oldest law school in the country and was the first to establish a study abroad program for law students. The school's program in Exeter, England, started in 1967 and ran until 1998, says Beckley. Its Madrid program started in 1988.

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Now, many law schools have overseas programs; few, however, have faculty members who advise their nation's parliaments or who are helping to shape the new Constitution for the European Union.

The Academic Co-Director of William & Mary's Madrid program, Professor José M. de Areilza, advised the Spanish government during its negotiations of the new European Constitution and has advised Spain's Prime Minister on North American and European affairs. Professor de Areilza is Professor of European Union Law, Instituto de Empresa.

Fellow Co-Director Professor Javier Guillén Caramés has been a consultant to the Spanish Parliament on Constitutional and Public Administration issues, and he is the Ramon y Cajal Professor of Administrative Law, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos.

The program's use of Spanish faculty was noted by the American Bar Association in its accreditation of the program, says Professor Charles Koch, the Woodbridge Professor of Law at William & Mary and Director of the Madrid program. While in Virginia, Koch teaches administrative law. In Spain, he teaches comparative constitutional law and European Union law.

There are eight Spanish faculty members all together, and one professor from William & Mary School of Law travels to Spain each summer to teach. Classes are taught in English every morning for five days a week over one month. The program offers a choice of nine classes, and each student takes three classes while on the program. This is a wider variety of course offerings than most law school programs abroad, says Beckley.

On average, 100 students go on the program each summer, says Beckley. Of these, 27 are from William & Mary, and the others come from 43 different law schools across the country. Last summer, five participants did externships, says Beckley. The students worked for one week in a Spanish law firm before classes started in Madrid, giving them a chance for international legal immersion. Those who do this must be completely fluent in Spanish.

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Students in the program not only benefit from living in another culture, but also from learning about another legal culture, says Koch. Spanish law is "a whole different kind of system, [with] a whole different legal culture."

The United States has laws based on the English, common law system, whereas continental European law is based on a civil law system, Koch explains. In the U.S. system, judges are required to base their rulings on precedents set by previous cases.

This is not so in Europe, where judges may consult past rulings but they are not bound by precedents set in those rulings, says Koch.

The goal of the Madrid program, says Koch, is to "broaden [students'] perspectives of the law," by showing them how Europeans would deal with given legal issues. Also, even domestic legal practice in the United States is developing "a trans-Atlantic legal culture," especially in business law and environmental law.

While some William & Mary law students, such as Stephanie Spirer, see their legal educations and careers molded by their experiences on the Madrid program, others see summer study abroad programs as a way to manage their academic schedule while also getting the chance to return overseas.

Third-year William & Mary law student Philip Chapman took the opportunity to study in Madrid so he could travel abroad again and also earn course credits so that his third year would not be so hectic, he says. Chapman is fluent in Spanish and was one of three student assistants who helped coordinate activities while on the program.

A 1988 graduate of the University of Michigan, Chapman was in the Navy for 23 years before attending law school. He studied Spanish at the Defense Language Institute, Monterey, CA, worked in South America for six years, and had been to Spain while with the Navy.

"I like travel," says Chapman, and the program "gave me a chance to do that." While in Madrid, Chapman took classes on human rights in Europe, civil and comparative constitutional law, and the laws of the European Union. After graduation Chapman will clerk for a U.S. District Court Judge in the District of Delaware and hopes to return to Virginia to do litigation work.

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To read more about Stephanie Spirer's experience on William & Mary's Madrid program, see our article profiling her experiences in the Law Student section of the site.

William & Mary Law School


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