September 10, 2019
University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law’s summer program and international internships provide transformational experiences for law students to travel in Europe and become better lawyers.
For nearly three weeks in July, 31 McGeorge students, five European law students and 10 undergraduates took part in the law school’s annual summer experience in Salzburg, Austria. The highlight are courses and lectures in small, intimate settings by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a member of the McGeorge faculty since 1965.
“Reading opinions written by Justice Kennedy and then discussing them in class with Justice Kennedy was truly incredible, because no one knows the reasoning better than the person who wrote the opinions,” said law student Shereen Basi ’21, one of 16 McGeorge students who worked at internships in Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic before traveling to Austria. Basi’s internship was in Berlin.
Other McGeorge students agreed that learning from Kennedy was an exceptional experience.
“It was incredible to hear Justice Kennedy discuss Supreme Court cases for which he authored opinions,” said McGeorge student Patrick Beck ’21, whose internship was in Milan, Italy. “He seemed humble, honest and sincerely interested in his students. He also had a pretty good sense of humor, which made class easy to attend.”
Elaine Stone ’21 appreciated the global significance of the summer programs.
“My experience at both the internship and the Salzburg program was invaluable,” Stone said. “I learned so much about the legal system in Europe and how it is similar and dissimilar to the U.S. system. … In this age of globalization, it is important to be able to see how other legal systems work, both within their own countries and with other countries and legal systems.”
The students also appreciated working with welcoming co-workers, being immersed in legal studies and a new country’s culture, and traveling throughout Europe on weekends. The dual benefit of learning about different cultures while continuing legal studies throughout the summer is intentional.
“The way we designed the program is really for the students to get an international and intercultural legal experience,” said Clémence Kucera, McGeorge’s director of graduate and international programs. “Not only in the subject of the courses, but also the interaction in the class to get to know students from other countries, to force them to think outside of the box. … I think for some of them, it was a culture shock, but in a very positive way.”
Along with the law students, 10 undergraduate students, including three from Pacific, also heard lectures by Kennedy and other international law experts.
“A lot of them are interested in the law, but they don’t necessarily want to practice law,” Kucera said of the undergraduates. “I think the students are somewhat entrepreneurial on their own to search for another school’s program and then to decide to do a law school’s program when you’re an undergraduate student. It just shows confidence and entrepreneurship on the part of the undergraduate students.”
The program provides law students a sense of freedom, Kucera said, but also a feeling of solidarity among students. At least for a short time during the summer, the students can escape the natural competition of law school. In the end, the experience and exposure to cultural differences will make the students more confident and better lawyers.
“It was a great opportunity for personal growth, if you are up for the challenge of living somewhere new,” Basi said. “But the challenges of living and working in a new place are fun and make the experience more rewarding.”