Foreign laws: UGA Law School at Oxford

Last spring, a dozen second- and third-year Georgia Law students traveled to the famed University of Oxford for a semester of studying the law.

Offered in partnership with The Ohio State University, Georgia Law at Oxford is one of only a few semester-long study abroad programs offered by American law schools. This year, OSU’s James J. Brudney served as the American professor in residence. Next spring, David E. Shipley, Georgia Law’s Cobb Professor and Oxford academic coordinator, will travel to England.

The spring 2006 term was the program’s inaugural semester, and an American Bar Association inspection team and participating students thoroughly praised the program. Shipley said the ABA’s report on the March site inspection was “glowing.”

He also noted that the program is a once in a lifetime experience for students. “They have the opportunity to live abroad. The curriculum is all international and comparative in nature. Also, the independent research project is conducted under the direction of an Oxford law faculty member,” Shipley said.

Then second-year student Patrick H. Garrard, who signed up for the semester abroad looking for exposure to international law and the way different legal systems operate, said the experience was incredible. “The work was quite difficult and time consuming like normal semesters in law school, but it was just such a different experience because you also had a culture to learn about when you finished classes,” he said. “It made for a more dynamic law school experience that revolved around more than simply the classes.”

Regarding the experience, then second-year student Jeffrey H. Gibson, who previously studied abroad, said that compared to his prior foreign study experiences, this one was much more demanding. “This trip has been much more focused on study and on understanding the similarities and differences between two systems which, on the surface, seem quite dissimilar, but on further inquiry may not be.”

Nathaniel H. Hunt, who was also a second-year student during the spring semester, said learning foreign law enhances one’s legal education and can only assist in furthering justice and improving the application of and access to law. “Comparative law can affirm the strengths of [the U.S.] legal system while at the same time provide ample fodder for questioning the legal principles and processes in the United States,” he said.

Notably, all slots for the 2007 GeorgiaLaw at Oxford spring semester have been filled, and there is a waiting list.