Monday, November 29, 2010

ABA president encourages law schools to prepare students for international practice

From the National Law Journal:

ABA President Steve Zack makes a point of speaking with law students when he travels overseas and is always impressed with their knowledge of the American legal system. On a recent trip to China, law students asked several pointed questions about race relations in the United States and notable court cases.

'I doubt that any similar questions could be asked if the president of the Chinese bar or even the English bar came here,' Zack said. '"Whether lawyers want it or not, clients will insist on the global practice of law. We need to train our young lawyers for that.'

. . . .

Even law schools that have had a strong international focus for years are boosting their offerings with new programs and partnerships. For example, the University of Wisconsin Law School launched two executive LL.M. programs in collaboration with law schools in Thailand and Japan during the past year. Students spend one semester abroad and one semester in Wisconsin.

The school is adding a similar degree program in Shanghai. It has a variety of academic partnerships with law schools throughout Asia and sends J.D. students overseas on summer internships with law firms in Bangkok, Thailand, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. 'If you spend your summer at a Madison or Milwaukee firm, you're not going to see anything international,' said John Ohnesorge, director of Wisconsin's East Asian Legal Studies Center.

Integrating foreign LL.M. students into the fabric of law school life is another way to create a more international atmosphere on campus, said Andrew Guzman, director of graduate programs and associate dean for international and executive education at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Berkeley offers a course on international business transactions that pairs American J.D. students with foreign LL.M. students to work on international legal issues.

There is no shortage of foreign LL.M students to bring into the mix; U.S. law schools have rushed to add those programs during the past decade. The number of LL.M. students at U.S. law schools grew by 65% between 1999 and 2009, and most of them were from overseas.

'I don't think that law schools, collectively, have figured out what it is they should be doing,' Guzman said. 'A lot of schools are trying different things with the word 'international' in them. I think the dilemma is that we know our students will be dealing with cross-border matters, but they'll probably be sitting in a law firm office in the U.S. It's still a work in progress.'

You can read the rest here.


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