When you’re in law school, it’s easy to view your summer through a singular lens. This lens comprises of one in which you find a summer job in the US, work as hard as you can, pray to get an offer for the next summer, or if you’re a 3L, a permanent offer for a full time post. Very rarely do we ever learn of alternative summer options, such as working abroad or even less of studying abroad. In fact, I was entirely unaware that the latter was even an option until I was on my way out of law school. Now I must concede that I do understand the justification for the lack of publicity surrounding study abroad programs. I mean, these programs are not cheap, and they would require law students to spend their summer paying additional tuition instead of earning money to offset some of the hefty tuition costs they’ve racked up during the year. However, it’s extremely important for students to be aware of these programs because they can be essential towards career development, depending on your selected career path.
When Should You Consider Studying Abroad For The Summer?
I would recommend considering a study abroad program if you have an interest in practicing international law. Yes, you can certainly enroll in the international law classes at your school. In fact, I highly recommend that you do so. However, considering the specialized nature of this practice, it would be beneficial for your knowledge and network development if you completed additional courses abroad. Landing a job in international law is extremely difficult, therefore obtaining a firsthand immersive education, would certainly give you an edge over your peers in the US pursuing opportunities without this added experience. Additionally, studying abroad gives you a better opportunity to search for jobs abroad.
Study abroad programs typically cover courses such as: International Human Rights Law, International IP Law and International Business Transactions. There are also Comparative Law courses and specialized courses that focus on practice areas within specific jurisdictions such as: Chinese and Japan Business Law and South Africa’s Constitution.
Where Do You Find Study Abroad Programs?
Finding these programs may be a bit tricky but accessible if you do some digging. Many study abroad programs are instituted by US based law schools that partner with law schools abroad. Typically, these programs are not restricted to just student’s enrolled at the law school but to all students. I would recommend starting your search with your own law school. They may already have a program in place or at the very least an advisor who can guide you through the application process for another program. If that route fails, you can certainly look to the handy world wide web. The American Bar Association has an extensive list of study abroad programs along with their requirements. This is an excellent resource if you’re pursuing this venture.
How Will I Pay For It?
As I mentioned earlier, study abroad programs typically require an additional tuition cost. The good news is that these costs will likely be way less than what you pay for a semester in the US. However, it can be difficult to justify paying these costs while your peers are racking up some big bucks in a traditional summer associate role. Making this decision will really weigh heavily on your career path. However, no need to worry, if you do make this choice there are opportunities to assist with funding.
I would recommend checking with your school to seek out grant/scholarship opportunities. They may already have this option in place and if not, you could take the step to request this. Depending on your career goals and your relationship with school advisors, they may be willing to assist you. Also you can seek out scholarship and grant opportunities online or take out a loan to assist with funding.
Will My Credits Transfer?
The quick answer to this question is yes! However, there are certain criteria that the ABA has outlined to guide credit transfers. Therefore, I recommend cross referencing your program of choice with these guidelines to confirm whether your credits will transfer before committing to a program. As you make this choice, I implore you to not just focus on this as a financial loss and view this as a prospective financial gain. Added credits during the summertime means the less credits that you have to complete once you’re back at school in the US. This opens the door for you to take on a part time job opportunity during the year with your added time. Many firms still have a need for a law clerk or two after the summer ends, therefore, this could be a great financial opportunity which could ultimately add up to more money than you would have gained during a 6-10 week summer job.
Three years of law school passes by really quickly! I recommend being open to alternative opportunities such as studying abroad, as it could truly be essential to kick starting your legal career.
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