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Posted Aug. 26, 2018

The Ongoing Internationalisation Of Legal Education

International LawBond UniversityIn this special guest blog post Professor Nick James, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law at Bond University in Australia, discusses the ongoing internationalisation of legal education.

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“Law programs offered by law schools have traditionally focussed upon domestic law, the law of the jurisdiction in which the law school is based. This is partly because admission bodies and accreditation authorities have usually insisted upon mastery of domestic law, partly because most of the law students became legal practitioners within that jurisdiction, and partly for pragmatic reasons: the law differs markedly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and it simply isn’t feasible to require law students to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of all of the world’s legal systems, or even the major legal systems. But this traditional focus upon a single legal system is changing.

"In recent decades, developments in transport, media and communications technology have increased human capacity to interact on a global scale. The internet has rendered physical distance and geographical boundaries, if not meaningless, certainly less important and less restrictive. International travel has become much easier, faster and relatively less expensive. Business people and government officials frequently attend meetings with colleagues in other countries, either online or face-to-face. The world is still far from being a truly integrated global community, but the people of the world are more connected and interacting more frequently across national borders than ever before.

"Globalisation has transformed the work of lawyers in several ways. The clients served by legal practitioners are no longer restricted to the jurisdiction in which the legal practitioner happens to be working; lawyers and law firms now advise and represent individual clients based in other countries, as well as organisations that operate across multiple jurisdictions. Legal employers can now appoint interns and employees from other countries, creating both increased opportunities and increased competition for law graduates. Many law firms are now outsourcing repetitive or mundane legal work to skilled workers in other jurisdictions. And the transactions in which clients engage and the disputes in which clients require advice and representation increasingly cross borders, requiring application of an often confusing array of different laws.

"Today it is almost taken for granted that law graduates and lawyers need expertise in not only domestic law but also law’s international contexts. The impact of globalisation is experienced in the ways in which advice to many clients must include elements of international law, in the fact that a lawyer’s clients are likely to come from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, and in the emergence of a growing number of opportunities for law graduates to practise law internationally.

"All of this has changed – and is continuing the change – the way law is being taught in law schools. Elective subjects, specialisations and majors in various aspects of international law, foreign law, and comparative law have been popular for some time. Many law schools now include international and comparative perspectives upon the law in their compulsory subjects. And we are now seeing the emergence of new law programs that adopt an entirely international approach to the law, with little or no domestic content.

"The Master of Laws in International Commercial Law and Dispute Resolution at my own University is an example of a genuinely international law program. Bond University has partnered with the Swiss International Law School to make available online subjects designed and delivered by legal scholars located in Australia, the UK, the US, Canada, Switzerland, and Germany. Because the subjects are delivered entirely online, students can undertake them anywhere in the world. The new program has been launched with four online subjects: International Corporate Law, International Sales and Transport Law, International Commercial Dispute Resolution, and Fundamentals of Intellectual Property Law. The subjects do not emphasise the law of any single jurisdiction, but instead take a comparative approach, contrasting the laws of a variety of common law and civil law countries, and adopting a truly international approach to the subject matter. The subject designers are leading scholars within their areas of expertise, and the fact that they are based in a variety of countries ensures the program is informed by a variety of perspectives. Students on this online LLM are provided with engaging video presentations, online text resources, interactive online exercises, online tests and reflective tasks. They interact with their instructors and peers via online classes, wikis and discussion boards. And they work individually and collaboratively on a variety of projects via online platforms.

"Today, a lawyer in Canada enrolled in a Master of Laws at an Australian university might watch a video presentation by a French legal scholar, discuss the presentation via email with a fellow LLM student in South Africa, collaborate with another student located in Germany on an assessment project comparing Canadian and EU law, and consult with her instructor based in London, all without leaving her home office!”

Find out more about the Faculty of Law at Bond University.

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