Academic Programs

Frequently Asked Questions and Helpful Links

I. Evaluating Whether Foreign Law Study is Right for You

II. Academic Regulations

For rules governing individual student study abroad programs, see Article IV, sec. 6.c. For rules governing other law schools' summer or semester study abroad programs, see Article IV, sec. 4.c. and Article IV, sec. 6.b.

III. Career Issues

Helpful Links

I. Evaluating Whether Foreign Law Study is Right for You

Should I apply to one of BU Law's study abroad programs?

In today’s interconnected world, it is hard to find a client whose interests in one way or another do not implicate foreign law – and it’s nearly impossible to address many of the most pressing issues we face without reference to the laws and legal regimes of other countries.  A basic awareness of other legal traditions and an appreciation of how US law relates to the international legal order is part of any competent lawyer’s portfolio.

BU Law’s study abroad programs let you go deeper than taking a select number of international law classes in the Law Tower: they are “total immersion” experiences, giving you the opportunity to study international, comparative and foreign law topics – and to gain new perspective on the U.S. legal system (and your own legal education) – at several of the world’s leading foreign law schools, and to surround yourself with students and scholars from all over the world. For the right student, the experience can add an important dimension to their legal education; clarify and focus career direction; support one’s self-marketing campaign when job hunting; and open up a new world of contacts and connections. 

Studying abroad, however, is not for everyone. You should not apply until you have carefully considered what you want to gain from the experience, have a realistic sense of what it will be like to study at one of our partner schools and have come to terms with the trade-offs involved.  You should also meet with a CDO advisor and/or the staff at the Office of Graduate and International Program to discuss whether foreign study makes sense for you.

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What are student experiences like?

Past participants have regarded their semesters abroad as one of the highlights – if not the highlight -- of their BU Law experience.  The programs can be transformative – opening new professional paths, leading to new networks, expanding cultural horizons in ways not possible through studies in Boston.   Virtually every student who has studied abroad has returned to say “I would do this all over again if given the chance; and I would recommend it to anyone, hands-down.”

You can read about student experiences through the reports that the Office of Graduate and International Programs keeps.

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Who thrives the most in these programs?

Students who gain the most have tended to be those who:

  • Have a clear sense of what they want to accomplish
  • Are resilient, resourceful and independent – can fend for themselves (don’t need their hands held)
  • Are outgoing, open to meeting new people and embracing new experiences
  • Can go with the flow
  • Can adjust their expectations about student services and educational bureaucracies – i.e., have a realistic understanding of what it will be like to be in a foreign environment, often at a public institution.

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I know I want a foreign experience. How do I know which program is best for me and what should I do?

Each of BU Law’s 13 single semester programs is different and offers a unique experience.  Students should read the detailed program descriptions on the web site: http://www.bu.edu/law/central/jd/programs/abroad/busl.html.

Students are welcome to apply to more than one program.  When writing the personal statement, it is important to provide specific information regarding each program of interest.  Thoughtful, well-organized responses will best communicate your sincerity in studying abroad. 

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What semester makes most sense to study abroad? When do most people go?

About half of BU Law's study abroad participants are 2Ls and half are 3Ls. 2Ls generally participate in spring semester programs so they can be at BU Law for on-campus interviews in the fall. Some spring semester programs end very late in the spring (or early summer) so are feasible only for 2Ls. (Check with the Office of Graduate and International Programs about that). The Oxford and Leiden programs have been popular programs for 3Ls in their final spring semesters, though 2Ls also have done those programs. 

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How competitive is it to do a study abroad program? Will I get into one?

All study abroad programs have enrollment caps, by agreement with our partner schools and in compliance with ABA regulations.  Generally speaking, about 75 percent of students who apply in any given year receive one or more offers to participate in a program. We ask students who apply to more than one program to rank their choices. Sometimes a student who does not get into his or her “first choice” program is given a spot in his or her second or third choice. With regard to the specific programs, Oxford is the most competitive; we look for very strong academics because of the intensity of the program. Our full-year program in Paris is highly competitive because there are only two places available. A very strong academic background is required.  Our Geneva Program is also highly selective – appropriate only for students with some solid background in international law -- because the student body in Geneva consists of European students who are already at the Masters and Ph.D. levels.

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Do third-year applicants have an advantage over second-year applicants?

We endeavor to send the most qualified student(s) to the most appropriate program(s) regardless of whether an applicant is a rising 2L or 3L.   Stated differently, we would not offer an opportunity to a lesser qualified 3L over a more qualified 2L simply because the 3L is entering his/her final year of law school.   On the other hand, between two comparable candidates – everything else being equal -- we would give preference to a rising 3L over a rising 2L.

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Do I need to have traveled, lived, or studied abroad to be considered a serious candidate? Likewise, will my application be disadvantaged if I studied abroad during college?

Past participants have included students who have traveled no further than their home state and Massachusetts – as well as students who have spent a semester or year abroad in college.   What matters most in the selection process is whether an individual student’s goals and interests are consistent with the purpose and opportunities of the targeted program; whether the student has realistic expectations about the program; and whether he or she is likely to welcome and embrace the challenges and opportunities of foreign study.

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What do I need to think about when considering one of BU Law's full-year international dual degree option, at Paris II or Singapore?

Our international dual degree programs are designed to offer a structured program of master-level studies in European Law (at Paris II) or in Asian Legal Studies (in Singapore).   They are offered to meet the needs of students whose career goals are clearly focused on these regions.  These programs could be helpful if you are targeting a private US-based international law firm with European or Asian offices. It could help underscore your seriousness of purpose to engage with clients who have European or Asian interests (and therefore set you apart from other students). Students should not at all expect that receiving an LL.M. degree will immediately lead to overseas employment, particularly with local law firms.  The foreign LL.M. degree will not qualify you to take the bar exam in France or Singapore.

Because they are full-year programs, students need to complete some specific mandatory J.D. requirements by the end of their second years: this includes meeting the (1) Professional Responsibility Requirement; (2) the skills requirement; and (3) the upper-class writing requirement. 

All students who are thinking about these programs need to meet with CDO to discuss how a full-year abroad will play into their job searches.

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Can I do a U.S.-focused job search when I am abroad?

Students who want to participate in the fall on-campus program must be here during the fall semester of their second or third year or both, which means that they should do one of the study abroad programs that occurs in the spring semester. If your job search continues while you are abroad, you can try to conduct the search long-distance. Technology eases this search somewhat. Since the value of studying abroad is great for many students, you should not let the on-going job search limit your willingness to apply for a study abroad program. Also, the CDO staff can help you with particular questions and concerns you have about the job search and foreign study.

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I really don't envision being an "international lawyer," or practicing "international law," per se, but I realize that everything these days has a global dimension and that most lawyers probably should know something about the handling of international matters. Is this reason enough to go overseas for a semester?

Probably not.  BU Law offers a broad range of classes that cover many of the key aspects of private and public international law, so it is possible to receive a solid background on international law without leaving Boston. The study abroad programs are best for students who have a clear sense of a region of interest and/or a good idea of how their subject matter interests (IP, human rights, corporate work) transcend national borders and implicate other legal regimes.

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I studied abroad during my junior year of college and it was amazing. Is that a good enough reason to do it again in law school? What's the difference between junior year abroad and a BU Law overseas program?

Enjoying junior year abroad is not a good enough reason to study abroad in law school.  First, the academic demands of BU Law’s programs are significant.  While students can expect to grow personally and further their “intercultural intelligence” during an exchange semester, these opportunities are best designed for students who have a clear sense of how the experience will feed their professional and academic growth.  That’s a big criterion in BU Law’s selection process. Going overseas simply for a “change of pace” or to “see the world” is not enough of a reason to participate in one of our programs.

Second, spending a semester abroad inevitably means not being able to pursue classes in Boston and/or perhaps other learning opportunities that can equally feed your professional and academic growth, such as certain journal work, or upper-class moot court competitions, and so on.  In that sense, the decision to study abroad in law school may come with more weighty “opportunity costs” than junior year abroad.

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II. Academic Regulations

For rules governing individual student study abroad programs, see Article IV, sec. 6.c. For rules governing other law schools' summer or semester study abroad programs, see Article IV, sec. 4.c. and Article IV, sec. 6.b.

How do I make sure I meet the J.D. credit requirements if I do a study abroad program?

Students can apply to the JD a maximum of 12 credits for a study abroad program. Since our yearly minimum credit requirement is 26 credits, students who do a study abroad program need to make sure to take enough credits in the semester they are still here so that they meet our minimum yearly credit requirement. (If you are a 3L and need more than 26 credits to graduate, you may need to take more than 14 credits in the other semester here).

Applications for the study abroad programs for the following year are due the prior spring semester – whether you are applying for a fall or spring program. Thus, in planning your schedule for the following academic year, you need to register for enough credits so that if you pursue a spring semester study abroad program, you have enough credits in the fall to meet our semester, yearly, and graduation credit requirements.

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How does BU Law's limit on the number of non-graded credits (16) play into the study abroad programs?

Each study abroad program grants 12 semester non-graded credits towards the J.D. degree.  A student may not apply more than 16 credits from such sources toward the total required for graduation. This limit may be waived by the Academic Standards Committee on a showing of good cause.  In addition to foreign study credits, non-graded credits include classes taken outside the law school (such as at another BU school) and the following courses:

  • Legal Externship: Fieldwork (Knight)
  • Health Law Externship: Fieldwork (Moulton)
  • Legislative Internship: Fieldwork (Kealy)
  • Community Courts: Fieldwork (Rossman)
  • Semester-in-Practice: Fieldwork (Knight)

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Can I go abroad for a semester and also work on a student journal?

You need to check with you journal you are interested in joining.  Generally speaking, it is difficult to undertake a board position on a journal if you plan to study abroad during your third year. The Law Review has recently not allowed 2Ls to study abroad (but they may study abroad in spring of 3L).

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What about doing a clinic? Can I go abroad and also squeeze in a clinic?

Yes, you can do a single-semester or full-year clinic and take a semester abroad, but you need to consider whether this will make it difficult to take some of the “fundamental” upper-class topics that are either on the bar exam or that may relate to your future practice area.  Such classes might include Administrative Law, Evidence, Corporations, UCC and Trusts and Estates.

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Can I participate in a study abroad program and also do a dual degree?

With careful planning, it may be possible to do a study abroad program and a dual-degree program or concentration if the two are related. For example, some students in the JD/M.A. in International Relations program have done a study abroad program. Contact Dean Marx, 4th floor, if you want details. For questions about how a study abroad program might work with a concentration, contact the concentration faculty advisor.

It is possible to study abroad for a semester if you are pursuing the JD/MA in International Relations dual degree program – many students have done this. You should be aware that the limit of 16 non-graded credits you can take includes classes taken outside the law school, such as at another BU school or a foreign school. Our semester abroad programs grant 12 credits. Receiving law credit for IR classes and spending a term abroad would therefore exceed 16 credits, so you would need to petition the school’s Academic Standards Committee (ASC) for permission. (Permission will be granted if a student’s reasons are “compelling.”).  BU Law’s international dual-degree (JD/LLM) programs at Paris II and NUS, which grant 24 credits for the overseas component (and two credits for an independent study) are exempt from the 16 non-graded credit limit.  However, it is difficult to predict how the ASC would react to a student’s petition to spend the entire year overseas (for 24 credits) AND pursue the MA program in International Relations.

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III. Career Issues

Will doing a study abroad program help me get a job in the U.S.?

You should not apply to study overseas with an expectation that foreign study will be a “silver bullet” that lands you a job in the U.S. – or cures a significant shortcoming in your resume.  On the other hand, an international experience that underscores your commitment to a certain type of work, or region of the world, can nicely signal your “seriousness of purpose” to the right employer.  It can also help demonstrate maturity and a global perspective – valuable traits that add to your overall “package.”

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Will doing a study abroad program help me land a job overseas?

If you hope to work abroad, specifically in the country where your study abroad program is based, you might be able to do some productive prospecting for career opportunities while you are there.  Generally speaking, however, you should not at all expect a semester abroad to result in a permanent foreign posting immediately upon graduation.  (You may also encounter employment restrictions in a given country.) A limited number of students have secured internships abroad in private firms after their study abroad programs and have returned to them after graduation. 

Most career advisors say that the best strategy on the private side is to build up your subject matter expertise first -- and then market yourself for an overseas posting.  Students who want to do private (corporate or commercial) work overseas should therefore consider targeting employers with international offices and position themselves to be hired as entry level associates in the U.S.  You can leverage your study abroad experiences to show employers how your interests are aligned with the firm’s practice; this can be useful in the interview process as well as once you join the firm and work on various projects.  

Students interested in public international work in a foreign country – with an NGO, or a U.N. organization, for example – may find that a semester overseas is a valuable way to make connections for internships or volunteer work, an important strategy to build your CV with hands-on experience that proves your commitment to the public realm.  It’s no secret that making connections in the public world is critical to securing opportunities, so a semester abroad can be extremely worthwhile in that regard. Improving your foreign legal language skills through foreign study is also helpful.

To explore this further, contact the CDO office and the Office of Graduate and International Programs for guidance.

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Would a dual degree in International Relations help me in the job market?

As for the job market, generally speaking IR degrees are valuable mainly for public interest and government jobs. However, if you want to work in private practice and if your IR degree focuses on an area that is also useful in private practice – say, international trade relations --then it certainly cannot hurt. You can also beef up your “private sector” portfolio through private firm summer experiences and commercial and corporate law classes, to counterbalance the “public” nature of any IR studies. One issue to consider will be the timing of law firm hiring practices. Typically, law firms welcome their “entering classes” in the fall, so if you graduate in December, you would be hitting the job market somewhat after the typical May graduate. (Law firm hiring practices – including the timing of start dates – are in a state of flux right now due to the economic situation; it is hard to predict when or whether “typical” hiring practices and timetables will resume.)

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What should I do if I want a summer internship overseas?

You should consider the school’s Summer International Internship Program, through which you can apply to a range of foreign positions, many at the law firms and organizations where our overseas LL.M. alumni work.  You should also meet with a career counselor in the CDO to discuss your strategy for applying for summer internships abroad, including how to identify and research employers and send applications.

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Can I get an internship overseas immediately after a semester of studies at a foreign school?

It depends.  If you intend to serve as an intern without receiving academic credit, yes, you can.  If you intend to serve as an intern for credit, you need to ensure that, in doing so, you are eligible to receive academic credit.  The law school limits the amount of non-GPA credits that students may earn.  Students should consider how spending a large amount of time abroad will impact their ability to develop marketable legal experience and contacts in the U.S. during law school.

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How does the timing of the clerkship application process impact my decision about studying abroad?

Federal clerkship applications should be submitted by early September of your 3L year, which means that you must submit your application materials to the CDO by mid-July.  State clerkship application deadlines vary, though many state courts also accept applications in the fall of a student’s third year.  Students compile their application packets, in conjunction with the CDO, in late August/early September.  Students studying abroad over the summer should line up their recommendation letters before leaving for the summer. 

Students should also consider interview dates.  For example, federal courts generally interview through September and early October.  In the past, students have flown back to the U.S. in order to interview for clerkships during their semester abroad, however, it is up to you to determine whether this option is feasible for you, in light of the expense, location and demands of your study abroad program.   Occasionally judges allow you to interview via videoconference or by telephone, but it is not a widespread practice.

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