Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

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Airknight
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Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

Postby Airknight » Mon Feb 27, 2012 4:10 pm

I'm an American male studying law in a foreign country in a graduate master's program immediately upon college graduation. At first, I thought studying law in a foreign country has many benefits, such as (1) improve my fluency in the language of the host country; (2) learn law from a different perspective; (3) be a more competitive candidate when I apply to top US law schools; (4) be more understanding of other countries; (5) see if I really like law or not -- it's a cheap way to test that compared to going to an expensive JD. It turned out that at least for (5), law isn't so bad, at least as it is taught and studied here. I enjoy some areas of law and know which ones I want to focus on already.

However, now I found out that I'm not learning their law but rather US law. All the law courses I've taken such as constitutional law, intellectual property law, securities law, corporate law, etc. all have readings in English and the readings mostly come from USA academic journals. Even their undergraduate law textbooks are ridden with English or German terms. Basically what I'm learning is just US law for the business law side and German law for the civil law side. Their legal system is a complete transplant from the US and Germany. I feel like with the exception of (1) I'm not learning law from a different perspective at all, and I will look so bad on my application to US law school in the future...But even for the 1st benefit, I feel like as a lawyer you don't really need to know languages other than English. It's not like a contract is going to be written in a non-English language. Do lawyers really need languages other than just English?

I did do very well my first semester here though. My final grades were all A. There is a wealth of courses that I can take to better prepare me for the law school game in the first year of JD.

I'm confused whether I should stick to the end and finish the program that I started. To finish the program, I have to take a fixed amount of credits and complete a thesis and defend it in front of a panel of law professors. If I ever decide to stay in the program, I will write my thesis in comparative commercial law, but then again I'm not learning enough about the law from a different perspective to even write anything comparatively. The local students probably know more than me about the legal culture of this country, so...I originally wanted to do an internship or work with a local law firm. Languages wouldn't be a problem, but the problem is that I'm not knowledgeable enough about either US law or the local legal culture (if they have one other than the one transplanted from the USA and Germany).

Should I quit this program and find something better to do, like a paralegal internship with a US firm? Will the completion of this master's program add any value to my application? Am I completely wasting two years of my youth? Please advise this clueless sheep...I'll provide more information if you need, but right now I think this sums up my situation quite nicely...

Thank you so much guys!

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cinephile
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Re: Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

Postby cinephile » Mon Feb 27, 2012 4:51 pm

You shouldn't quit.

It doesn't look bad AT ALL to have already studied some American law. It won't necessarily help, but it won't hurt you. And you studied some German law and, I'm guessing, learned German. That really is great. You never know what you may get to do with your language skills. Besides, quitting a program never looks good. It makes you look like you won't be up to the challenge of finishing law school. If this program really isn't an economic burden, just finish it.

Airknight
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Re: Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

Postby Airknight » Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:01 pm

cinephile wrote:It won't necessarily help, but it won't hurt you. And you studied some German law and, I'm guessing, learned German. That really is great. You never know what you may get to do with your language skills. Besides, quitting a program never looks good. It makes you look like you won't be up to the challenge of finishing law school. If this program really isn't an economic burden, just finish it.


You made a very good observation. I'll be so fluent in German (at least in reading) because for things like civil law and criminal law this country completely transplanted the German codes. Also I'm taking private German lessons here to improve speaking skills. And my prof this semester for IP Law graduated from Germany but most of our readings are again from the US...

The program is very cheap, just at a fraction of the cost of a JD. The living cost in this country is reasonable. My professors all graduated from the T10 in the States and Germany (Munich, Hamburg, for example) and are experts in their fields.

If I should stick with this program to the end, would you recommend getting a job for 1-2 years here before returning to the US for JD? Or should I go back to the US for a paralegal job? I'm sure some firms will take me because it won't take them much to train me -- I already know how to do research on WestLaw and stuff -- but I'm not sure where I should work to leverage my profile as much as possible. I guess my concern is, do top US law schools and big law or in-house departments value foreign law degree and foreign law work experience?

Oh, and I want to be considered for expat package and assignment to overseas office when I work for a US firm in the future.

Also, does this kind of unique experience provide a good basis for OCI?

All that said, I won't take the bar here because there are so many subjects (con law, admin law, corporate law, insurance law, criminal law, insurance law etc.) and therefore would take too much time to prepare. The passage rate is less than 10% (US bar passage is tooooo high in comparison!) and I'm not sure if I can write a foreign language that quickly under time pressure...

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cinephile
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Re: Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

Postby cinephile » Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:11 pm

Airknight wrote:If I should stick with this program to the end, would you recommend getting a job for 1-2 years here before returning to the US for JD? Or should I go back to the US for a paralegal job? I'm sure some firms will take me because it won't take them much to train me -- I already know how to do research on WestLaw and stuff -- but I'm not sure where I should work to leverage my profile as much as possible. I guess my concern is, do top US law schools and big law or in-house departments value foreign law degree and foreign law work experience?

Oh, and I want to be considered for expat package and assignment to overseas office when I work for a US firm in the future.

Also, does this kind of unique experience provide a good basis for OCI?

All that said, I won't take the bar here because there are so many subjects (con law, admin law, corporate law, insurance law, criminal law, insurance law etc.) and therefore would take too much time to prepare. The passage rate is less than 10% (US bar passage is tooooo high in comparison!) and I'm not sure if I can write a foreign language that quickly under time pressure...



The bolded are my goals as well, but we'll see.

If you can't sit for the bar in Germany, what kind of job would you be looking for? Also, are you legally able to work in Germany as an American? Even if it's something equivalent to a paralegal, I think it'd be more impressive to have international work experience. I've always received questions about my work experience abroad when interviewing, even now. But I'm just a 1L and haven't gone through OCI yet.

Anyway, I wish I were a professional and had something to add, but sadly I don't. Good luck to you!

Airknight
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Re: Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

Postby Airknight » Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:19 pm

cinephile wrote:The bolded are my goals as well, but we'll see.

If you can't sit for the bar in Germany, what kind of job would you be looking for? Also, are you legally able to work in Germany as an American? Even if it's something equivalent to a paralegal, I think it'd be more impressive to have international work experience. I've always received questions about my work experience abroad when interviewing, even now. But I'm just a 1L and haven't gone through OCI yet.

Anyway, I wish I were a professional and had something to add, but sadly I don't. Good luck to you!


Hi cinephile,

It's good to know there are also other fellow law students who are interested in working overseas! I wish you good luck and hope that you will get the assignment of your first choice!

I'm not in Germany, though. I'm in a civil law country that uses German codes for most of the public law and the American legal system for most of its business law counterpart. By law here, I can sit for the bar exam as a foreigner who has a law degree either in this country or from an accredited Western law school. But it will take so much time to prepare for it and it's not that easy. I'm not very confident of my ability to pass it...

I think some international (US or UK) law firms here would hire some paralegal help who is an American. The local law firms need people with English language skills, and I heard that companies (not just law firms) here give Americans special treatment when they apply for jobs. The pay won't be as high as in America, though. But it would be a good experience just to observe how foreign lawyers or US lawyers working abroad at work, I guess. Also I heard that the majority of big law firms here prefer to hire people who have background in something other than a law license, for example electrical engineering (due to IP law demand). But unfortunately my bachelor's wasn't in engineering.

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dingbat
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Re: Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

Postby dingbat » Mon Feb 27, 2012 10:54 pm

Airknight wrote:
I'm not in Germany, though. I'm in a civil law country that uses German codes for most of the public law and the American legal system for most of its business law counterpart. By law here, I can sit for the bar exam as a foreigner who has a law degree either in this country or from an accredited Western law school. But it will take so much time to prepare for it and it's not that easy. I'm not very confident of my ability to pass it...


Taiwan?

Airknight
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Re: Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

Postby Airknight » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:23 am

dingbat wrote:
Airknight wrote:
I'm not in Germany, though. I'm in a civil law country that uses German codes for most of the public law and the American legal system for most of its business law counterpart. By law here, I can sit for the bar exam as a foreigner who has a law degree either in this country or from an accredited Western law school. But it will take so much time to prepare for it and it's not that easy. I'm not very confident of my ability to pass it...


Taiwan?


Yes. Is that a reason for me to quit? :(

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dingbat
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Re: Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

Postby dingbat » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:48 am

Airknight wrote:
dingbat wrote:
Airknight wrote:
I'm not in Germany, though. I'm in a civil law country that uses German codes for most of the public law and the American legal system for most of its business law counterpart. By law here, I can sit for the bar exam as a foreigner who has a law degree either in this country or from an accredited Western law school. But it will take so much time to prepare for it and it's not that easy. I'm not very confident of my ability to pass it...


Taiwan?


Yes. Is that a reason for me to quit? :(


Nope. I know absolutely nothing about the Taiwan legal system, or how it mmight affect your career.
I just wanted to see if I could figure out which country.

mr.undroppable
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Re: Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

Postby mr.undroppable » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:32 am

Airknight wrote:
dingbat wrote:
Airknight wrote:
I'm not in Germany, though. I'm in a civil law country that uses German codes for most of the public law and the American legal system for most of its business law counterpart. By law here, I can sit for the bar exam as a foreigner who has a law degree either in this country or from an accredited Western law school. But it will take so much time to prepare for it and it's not that easy. I'm not very confident of my ability to pass it...


Taiwan?


Yes. Is that a reason for me to quit? :(


Are there even any US firms in Taiwan? Local firms don't generally give out expat packages but experience abroad is always an attractive thing for a employers, it shows you're independent and can adapt to unfamiliar situations without freaking out.

You generally won't get an expat package without starting out in the US. Even firms that offer packages to first year associates right after they get their JD won't be nearly as lucrative as they would be if you get a couple years experience in the US first. To quantify it, maybe a first year would get 20~40k starting abroad if they're lucky whereas someone with a year or two of experience in NY could snag 80~100k, or more, depending on the firm/country. Think about it, what could a US lawyer with no experience possibly bring to the table that a cheaper local lawyer with an LLM couldn't do better (and they usually don't give those LLMs expat packages).

Airknight
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Re: Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

Postby Airknight » Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:49 am

mr.undroppable wrote:
Are there even any US firms in Taiwan? Local firms don't generally give out expat packages but experience abroad is always an attractive thing for a employers, it shows you're independent and can adapt to unfamiliar situations without freaking out.

You generally won't get an expat package without starting out in the US. Even firms that offer packages to first year associates right after they get their JD won't be nearly as lucrative as they would be if you get a couple years experience in the US first. To quantify it, maybe a first year would get 20~40k starting abroad if they're lucky whereas someone with a year or two of experience in NY could snag 80~100k, or more, depending on the firm/country. Think about it, what could a US lawyer with no experience possibly bring to the table that a cheaper local lawyer with an LLM couldn't do better (and they usually don't give those LLMs expat packages).


There are a few US firms specializing in IP and transactions with HK. But those firms are very few. Taiwan is a very marginalized place. Alternatively, I can also apply to a local Taiwanese firm. Does this help with my career in the long run?

Yeah, I do plan to work for a US firm for few years in the States before getting expat to another country.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Feb 28, 2012 1:00 pm

Liechtenstein ? If it's Switzerland, then why leave ?

Airknight
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Re: Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

Postby Airknight » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:34 pm

Bump. So far I've gotten responses that are "stick to the end/don't quit" and I really appreciate your great comments. I still hope to hear more from others. Please help me out. Thank you!

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cinephile
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Re: Help please! American studying law in a foreign country

Postby cinephile » Tue Feb 28, 2012 5:00 pm

I already responded, but just wanted to clarify my response. At this point, you're already there. It's less about thinking how can this masters/work experience abroad help my future and more about how am I going to explain away a 1 year gap on my resume if I quit before receiving my degree? How does this look? If you have a good justification that wouldn't make you look like a flight risk either for admissions or work in the future, that's good, but otherwise I'd stick with it.




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