Students, Faculty Making Global Connections through University of Queensland Alliance
This fall, third-year law students Kaleb Berhe and Brett Garrison augmented their professional portfolios in international law by studying at the TC Beirne School of Law at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia. The two were among a growing number of Washington University law students who fully expect their participation in the scholarly exchange program with UQ to better prepare them to practice law in the global legal environment.
“The alliance between Washington University and UQ will provide students with a strong grounding in a foreign legal system and access to an expanded network of legal professionals,” says Andrew Tuch, associate professor of law. A graduate of UQ and a former tenured faculty member at Australia’s University of Sydney Law School, Tuch serves as the law school’s liaison with UQ.
Through the formal alliance, forged in fall 2011, participants study at both Washington University and the UQ law school. Upon completing the degree program, U.S. graduates earn a JD from Washington University, with the option to earn an LLM from UQ. Australian students enter the LLM program at Washington University after earning an LLB from their home school. Faculty from both universities also participate in teaching and research exchanges. In addition to Berhe and Garrison, four Australian students entered Washington University's LLM program in the fall.
A prime example of the law school’s commitment to provide a legal foundation in transnational practice and further international research and teaching initiatives, the UQ alliance is one of 14 current student and faculty exchange opportunities. In addition to Australia, prestigious partner schools are located in China, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Korea, The Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
The alliance with UQ is particularly appealing for Washington University law students because of its location, as well as the exciting economic and legal climate in Brisbane, Tuch says. As Australia’s third largest city, with a population of 2.2 million, Brisbane is also ideally located as a base from which to explore the country. It lies mid-way along Australia’s eastern coast, between the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast—where many of the country’s best beaches are found—and is the closest major city to the Australian Outback.
Brisbane is also notable as a mining capital. In recent years, Australia has experienced tremendous economic growth, driven primarily by a natural resources boom. UQ has benefited from the region’s growth and its position in the city, as well as burgeoning growth in related legal practice areas, Tuch says.
“For example, the university has strong courses in mining and resources law,” he notes. “Accordingly, UQ provides Washington University students with great study opportunities and a job market that has experienced strong growth.”
Students from both schools cite the opportunity to study diverse coursework as a primary reason for their participation. Berhe, who studied abroad for the first time this fall, is interested in labor and employment law and is taking advantage of the well-respected labor law curriculum at UQ.
UQ student Brigid Mulcahy, who studied at Washington University during the spring 2013 semester, is particularly interested in corporate law. “The practical courses offered, such as negotiation and preparing commercial agreements, were important draw cards for me as there were no comparative courses at my home university,” she says.
Enhancing her scholarly experience abroad, Mulcahy landed an externship this past summer with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in New York City. “As an extern, I received course credit towards my LLM, but the internship also contributed greatly to my knowledge of the securities industry in the United States, and to my understanding of corporate law,” she says.
UQ student Isabella Kelly also participated in the exchange program last semester. “I really used the LLM program at Washington University as a way to further explore my interests,” she says. “I took subjects on international law and international human rights law.”
Kelly, who hopes to eventually work for the United Nations in an advisory and policy-making capacity, says she was impressed by the expertise and connections of Washington University faculty. “Being able to study under Professor Leila Sadat, who is an influential actor within the realm of international human rights, was a privilege and inspired me to take action to achieve my goals,” she says.
As an LLM student, Kelly also completed an internship with the Honorable Richard E. Webber of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. “This opened doors for me in my legal career, and I believe it played a direct role in securing my job as associate to the Honourable Justice Peter J. Lyons of the Supreme Court of Queensland for 2014,” she says.
- Danielle Skolnik with a friend on the "CityCat" ferry
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Recent Washington University graduate Danielle Skolnik, JD ’13, says she enrolled at UQ in fall 2012 for the unique opportunity to study with lawyers and law students from Australia as well as various other countries. “I’m confident that the benefits of my experience will resonate for years to come,” she says.
The differences in academic structure add to the experience for students from both law schools. “In Australia, a law degree is an undergraduate degree, and post-graduate students who wish to continue their education take classes towards an optional master’s degree. Since in the United States, a law degree is a post-graduate degree, I was permitted to take master’s classes,” Skolnik says. “My peers were mostly practicing lawyers, which was a very unique and rewarding aspect of the program.”
Meeting and engaging with fellow students in an international program has the added advantage of lasting friendships and a strong global network, participants say. "I developed great relationships with law students and practicing lawyers in many foreign countries. I imagine it will be helpful to have these contacts as I embark on my career," says Skolnik, who is currently clerking for the Honorable Eric L. Clay of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
An important goal of such alliances is to encourage students to pursue a legal career outside their home countries, says Associate Professor Adam Badawi, who taught at UQ as part the faculty exchange program in August 2012. “Although there are plenty of job opportunities, it can be hard for a second-year law student to imagine practicing abroad,” he says. “Exchange programs are a nice way to get that process started.”
At UQ, Badawi taught U.S. corporate law in the UQ LLM program. “My students were practicing lawyers going back to get an additional degree,” he says. “They took the class because they have interactions with American companies and they want to know how corporate law is done in the United States.”
Faculty are also beneficiaries of the scholarly exchanges, he says. “Through talking with faculty there, through discussions I had in the classroom with students, and through the work that I saw, I have a much stronger grasp of how Australian corporate lawyers think about their work,” he says. Badawi, who concentrates his teaching and scholarship on contracts and commercial law, also sees great potential for research collaboration among faculty members from both law schools.
“The practice of law is becoming increasingly global,” Badawi says. “The learning curve is steep initially, but it starts to flatten as you do it more, so these programs help us make our students better lawyers—lawyers who are equipped for modern legal practice.”