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Semester in Oxford Program
Q&A with Professor Brudney
Professor James J. Brudney, Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law, served as the faculty director for the design and implementation of the inaugural Moritz/University of Georgia Semester Program in Oxford in 2006. He shared his candid, probing insights and perspectives about the Program in this interview with Professor Joseph B. Stulberg, Associate Dean for Faculty (conducted in the fall of 2006).
Q: What is distinctive for Moritz students about the Oxford Semester Program?
Brudney: There are two distinctive features-one is academic, and that extends to all aspects of the curriculum. In the three more "traditional" academic courses, we systematically explore the comparative law dimension: for instance in a labor and employment course, how do policies and laws in the U.S. and Great Britain (including European Community law) regulate sexual harassment in the workplace, or how do they address protections for job security? In a full-length semester course, students can immerse themselves thoroughly in this comparative analytical framework.
The fourth course, a research tutorial modeled on the famous Oxford tutorial system, may be the most challenging, intense, yet ultimately rewarding learning experience of students' law school studies. Each student works in a small group of three or four with an Oxford Law Professor who is a recognized star in his or her field. Students worked very hard in their tutorials, and developed extraordinary papers; several are now seeking to publish their work.
Finally, there were a series of external lectures and site visits fully integrated into the courses: these are not simply "show and tell" excursions, but rather targeted visits and interactions with British judges, legislators, and policy makers that are closely tied to course material. It would be like studying various securities laws in the U.S. and then meeting with SEC Commissioners to examine policies and cases related to what you were studying.
The second distinctive feature is cultural. The program offers a unique opportunity to interact with Oxford University students on a sustained basis, be it in the libraries, the dining halls, lectures or concerts, political clubs, or even on rugby teams-we had one woman play rugby for St Anne's College! There is also a chance to participate in British life more broadly: our students traveled to London some evenings to take in a show or concert, to all corners of the British Isles on weekends, and to many European countries during the 10-day mid-semester break.
Q: How would you describe the differences between the Oxford semester program and the Moritz Summer Program in Oxford?
Brudney: In the semester program, students and faculty are integrated into the life of what is truly one of the world's great universities. Think of being a visiting student at Harvard or Yale Law School for a semester versus attending a summer law program that takes place at those schools but without a comparable reliance on Oxford law faculty or a comparable exposure to Oxford collegiate life. The supervised research tutorial also is a major and quite distinctive experience for an American law student. Apart from the very close relationship developed with an established law faculty member at Oxford, it provides a unique opportunity for that professor to write letters of recommendation. In addition, students in the semester program must manage living independently in a foreign culture; there are fewer "scripted" group activities, and while we are certainly supportive of students in lots of ways, they must learn to live on their own.
Q: What concerns did the students who studied in Oxford identify?
Brudney: Most students from Ohio State were 3Ls (the Georgia students had a larger 2L population), and some were concerned about how to continue their job search while abroad. Most succeeded without complications; two flew back to the U.S. for interviews and one landed a coveted job that way. Some students were a bit surprised at what was demanded of them in the classroom, but Moritz students quickly and ably adjusted to the opportunity. Students from Georgia missed having warm weather during February and March; for Moritz students, it was not very different than being in Columbus!
Q: Why should a Moritz student spend a semester at Oxford?
Brudney: I am not sure we would think twice about this question if it were put as: would you like to spend a semester as a visiting student at the most prestigious law school in the United States ? The rewards include being exposed to new, energizing classmates, an opportunity to interact with and be challenged by highly-regarded scholars and teachers, and the chance to live in a cultural setting that enriches one's perspective on people. We have a terrific faculty and student body right here at Moritz, don't get me wrong. But Oxford is one of the pre-eminent universities in the English-speaking world. It draws faculty and students from diverse intellectual and geographic backgrounds, and students begin to "think comparatively" as part of their lawyering repertoire. We all recognize that in tomorrow's legal world, almost every lawyer will have at least some clients who participate in, or are affected by, a global economy. We created the program so that interested, qualified Moritz students could participate and be specially prepared for such a future.
Q: Congratulations on the praiseworthy comments that were made about the Program and you in the ABA Site Evaluator's report.
Brudney: Thanks, but many people have played a significant role in shaping and implementing this program. Our Dean has been enthusiastically supportive; our faculty colleagues encouraged student enrollment and provided guidance in student selection; and our administrators in Career Services and Financial Aid supported students from a distance, as did our technical services staff. In addition, Moritz alumni who work in London invited us to their gatherings. And, finally, of course, our participating students were extraordinary: they are, not surprisingly, remarkable ambassadors for Moritz and for the country of which they are citizens.