Oxford Program Gives Students Perspective, Opportunities
|St. Anne's College|
For more than 20 years, the Moritz College of Law has offered summer programs at Oxford University for both law students and pre-law undergraduates. Last year, in conjunction with the University of Georgia, Moritz added a semester-long program as well.
Together, that trifecta of opportunity across the pond has presented students and faculty alike an opportunity to further their education, learning more about the law while steeped in the culture of a different country.
"A considerable portion of our law is derived from common law in England," says Associate Dean for Information Services Bruce Johnson, coordinator of the 2006 undergraduate program. "It helps students to see those connections. Common law in the U.S. has changed and evolved. We do some things differently... but it is useful to see the origins of U.S. law. This system is best studied if you have a historical context."
Professor Greg Travalio, coordinator of the 2006 summer program for law students, said small classes, an informal atmosphere, increased contact with professors and the extraordinary educational, historical and cultural opportunities make the program an unbeatable opportunity for students.
"The comparative focus is unique," he says. "It is an opportunity to compare U.S. law with U.K. law and European Union law. It gives you a good perspective in a number of areas."
Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law James Brudney, organizer of the 2006 semester program, observes, "The intensity of the academic experience can be stressful at moments, but it is ultimately exhilarating. Through seminar-size classes, closely supervised tutorials, and coordinated field trips, students engage problems of law and policy with the constant benefit of British and European perspectives. That prolonged exposure deepens and enhances your experience, and makes you a better lawyer."
The pre-law course is a five-week program offering 20 students information on the groundwork of English culture and legal institutions that have been woven into the American system.
"I think it is good background for students to gain," Dean Johnson says. "They get a good glimpse of what law school is like. It is a busy five weeks. It isn't a glorified vacation." Any chance to study abroad should be embraced, he said, especially any opportunity at one of the world's oldest and most respected universities.
During the most recent stay, students were around to experience the frenzy surrounding the World Cup, and view up close the reaction of another country's citizens, its media and its politicians to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.
"It is easy to get a sense (here in the States) that the only law that matters or makes sense is American law," Professor Travalio says, but studying the British system gives students a different take on how to resolve issues and problems. Both Moritz and British faculty teach courses, which have run the gamut of topics.
The summer program is held from July to August and is open to 50 students annually.
The semester program is 15 weeks, from January to April and is open to 10 Moritz law students, as well as 10 Georgia law students annually.
In the semester program, law students take four comparative or international law courses. Two are taught by the visiting American law professor (Professor Brudney last year); one is taught by a member of Oxford's law faculty; and the fourth course is a supervised research tutorial, where each student chooses a topic and writes a 50-page research paper under the guidance of one of six Oxford professors.
Professor Brudney twice coordinated the summer program and jumped at the chance to run the inaugural semester program. The experience available at Oxford is unparalleled in both the academic and social sense, he says.
Michelle Ehlert '06 participated in the semester program this year and said the Oxford Program helped create job opportunities for her.
"We met and worked with premiere international scholars on papers and topics of our choosing," she says. "That is unbeatable. We combined all that with the opportunity to travel throughout Europe, to build a community in a new international sense, and to finish law school in a manner that very few other students will ever have the opportunity to do."
In perhaps her biggest endorsement of all, Michelle said she planned to drive six hours to hear her Oxford tutorial professor, Stefan Talmon, speak at Moritz at the end of October.
Shannon Rogers '06 says the subject matter intrigued her – she now works as a union-side labor lawyer – and that the comparative experience helped her learn to think outside the box for solutions.
"I learned that I'm capable of settling in to a different culture and country relatively quickly," she says. "It was reassuring before entering a competitive and challenging job market."
But the program is not all work. Students have found the time for some excursions, such as hikes in the Scottish Highlands and trips to the French Alps, Amsterdam, North Africa and Prague, among other destinations.
"Living abroad is extremely rewarding in what you can learn and experience," Shannon says. "I spent my spring break driving all around Ireland, and one weekend hopped on a train and went to the birthplace of Shakespeare for a day. Not many people can say they did that in law school."