It is essential for professional lawyers to understand cross-cultural legal aspects of international relations, relates John Head, Professor of Law at the University of Kansas (KU), USA, which has run international law programmes for about 120 years. “[Our programmes] can be considered vocational in the sense [they contain] practice-orientated, nuts-and-bolts content,” he enthuses.
Currently offering a two-year Juris Doctor degree (JD) for Foreign-Trained Lawyers and a Certificate Programme in International Trade and Finance for existing JD law students, KU supports overseas scholars, and there are “students from East Asia, the Middle East, Europe, South America and elsewhere”. Head advises he continues to see a steady increase in student interest, as well as programme growth.
KU’s programmes are well-established, but many institutions only added such courses to their catalogues recently. Katherine Reece Thomas at City University, UK, which will begin a Master of Laws degree (LLM) in Public International Law from September 2012, explains, “[International law] is becoming an increasingly important subject for practice, partly as a result of the growth in human rights globally, and partly as a result of globalisation.” She hopes to see a lot of interest in the new programme, “which will allow students to focus on topics not covered by other university masters [at City], such as globalisation and minority rights”.
The UK’s Nottingham Trent University (NTU) also recently launched a Bachelor (LLB) in International Law, and has offered a postgraduate diploma in International Insolvency Law since February. Brian Ward says the three-to-four-year course that started in the 2011/12 academic year has attracted over 30 students. “Applications remain strong for 2012. It’s hard to predict, but we expect numbers to be similar to last [year],” he notes, mentioning there are a number of overseas applicants for 2012/13.
June Gorton at NTU says the course is a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD), prescribed by UK law associations such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board. “[QLDs let] graduates proceed to the vocational stage of training required to become a solicitor or barrister. The enhanced international awareness of such graduates serves to strengthen their attractiveness to international law firms and to the in-house legal departments of multinational companies.”
Unsurprisingly, international law courses have proven popular with overseas students. Bill Churma at American University Washington College of Law, highlights 90 per cent of LLM degree International Legal Studies Programme students are international. “Each year [the programme represents] over 50 countries, [but it is] not immune from student mobility [trends].”
The LLM International Commercial Law degree course at the University of Westminster, UK, is also almost entirely made up of foreign students. “We recruit globally,” explains Simon Newman, “with a strong presence from Central and South America, all of Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, Africa and the Pacific Rim.” Newman says the year-long course, with modules including Money Laundering, has seen a significant increase in interest these past few years. “The tight employment market and good international reputation of the course and institution are both likely factors,” he adds.
For a complex subject, international law students are required to have strong English language proficiency. Clémence Kucera at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, USA, highlights that students on the LLM degree in Transactional Business Practice and JD programme in International Water Law often from China, Nepal and Spain among other countries need a score of 83 in Internet Toefl exams (iBT) or a 6.5 in Ielts. “We don’t yet offer ESL support, but we are planning to in the near future,” Kucera explains.
Students at University of Westminster also require a 6.5 Ielts score, or 92 in Toefl (iBT), although Newman informs, “There is some flexibility where students already have a strong knowledge of international commercial law, for instance they might have a non-English LLM in international commercial law.”
Cathy Schenker, also at the American University Washington College of Law, highlights the value of extra curricular vocational activities. Washington College of Law offers a course on negotiation skills in which students negotiate an agreement with students from its partner institution, University of Dundee, UK. Meanwhile, City University is hoping to include internship opportunities for its LLM students.
A spokesperson at University of Monash in Australia says its international law LLM and graduate diploma courses “provide students with an advanced legal knowledge across a broad spectrum of legal issues with international significance”. Overall, breadth of study is something most contributors to this article recognised as very valuable.
Well-established courses such as the University of Kansas’s rely on fellow alumni, for marketing purposes, while June Gorton says Nottingham Trent University “has an International Development Office [that] deals with agents around the world, the British Council and other agencies that promote UK education abroad. We also have academic links with a number of universities, governments and legal agencies worldwide”.
Gorton also cites social media as a marketing tool, as does Bill Churma, from Washington College of Law, an institution beginning to focus on this marketing medium.“Many students are so used to getting information immediately at their fingertips that it is important to keep up with these current trends,”he explains.
Seth Stromboli advises that City University’s law course is listed on websites such as LLMGuide.com, and that the institution runs promotional events and uses direct mail campaigns.