Learning the law in London

My name is Josh Williamson, and I am currently a 3L here at the University of Kansas School of Law. During the 2010 spring semester, I had the opportunity to study law in London as a participant of the London Law Consortium. (In addition to KU Law, the London Law Consortium is comprised of six other law schools located throughout the U.S.) Needless to say, I had a number of unique and memorable academic and cultural experiences.

The consortium campus is located just a few minutes from the British Museum, in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London. Having never been to London before, I elected to live just a few blocks from campus with a couple of other consortium students. I was very happy with this decision because, as it turned out, the campus is within easy walking distance of sights such as Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Chinatown, Leicester Square, Regent’s Park, Buckingham Palace and Parliament, just to name a few. It also meant I had a short walk to class each morning and could easily return to campus in the evening, after some sightseeing in the afternoon, to study if the need arose. However, many of the consortium students elected to live in various other neighborhoods throughout London and were equally pleased with their decisions. Really, no matter where in London students choose to live, the consortium campus is easily accessible via the numerous surrounding tube and bus stations.

The consortium building itself is open 24 hours, allowing students continuous access to the computer lab, classrooms and various study areas.  The building is also equipped with a student lounge, library, visiting faculty offices and wireless Internet. In the immediate vicinity of the building, there is a grocery store, a FedEx, a very well-equipped YMCA and multiple pubs and eateries perfect for grabbing a quick bite to eat.  Also nearby, and essential to the existence of every law student, is a two-story Starbucks with ample study space and people-watching opportunities. With everything so conveniently located, I found that I had more than enough time to fully experience London while still managing a full class load.

Given that the consortium only accepts a limited number of students each spring, the classes themselves were small and extremely interactive. Professors from assorted consortium schools travel to London and teach the U.S.-based law courses, while the English/European law courses are taught by English professors. Throughout the semester, I got to know both my professors and fellow classmates very well. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to participate in classroom discussions with law students from schools throughout the U.S. Everyone’s unique perspectives and experiences really contributed to keeping class discussions interesting and informative. Although the classes offered change each year, I took Federal Courts, English Legal Systems, English Legal Methods, European Union Law, and International Human Rights. There were other class options available, but this schedule gave me a total of 13 hours, which I found to be very manageable. One class I found to be especially interesting was English Legal Methods.

Similar to the Judicial Clerkship Clinic offered here at KU Law, the English Legal Methods course matches students with English barristers specializing in a variety of different practice areas. I was paired with a criminal defense barrister and was able to accompany him while he tried various cases in London’s famous Central Criminal Court. Throughout the semester, I observed high-profile rape, murder, attempted murder, and embezzlement cases. I was also able to accompany my barrister to other venues in and around London for prison visits and client conferences.  This experience provided me with firsthand insight into the English legal system, and I would highly recommend it to anyone planning on taking part in the consortium program.

Lastly, in addition to enjoying the neighborhoods of London, other students and I made it a priority to try and travel to other European countries each weekend. This was very easy given the relatively short distances involved, cheap flights and convenient access to local airports. Together, we managed to visit areas within England, Scotland, France, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden.  For me, these additional trips really contributed to an already wonderful study abroad experience.

I found the chance to study law in a foreign country, while simultaneously being completely immersed in the culture, to be extremely rewarding. The experience has proven to be tremendously valuable to me, both personally and academically, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in studying abroad. For additional details, please visit http://law.ku.edu/studyabroad.

Josh Williamson, 3L