Summer Law Programs for Foreign Lawyers

Whether you’re preparing for an LLM in the U.S., or you just want to improve your English skills and understanding of the basics of U.S. law, a summer law program can be an excellent way to do it. Many of the top law schools in the U.S. offer such programs, and they typically take four to eight weeks to complete.

The programs generally include a variety of different courses. Some focus on improving students’ English writing, speaking, and comprehension skills, while others also include fundamental courses on the structure of the American legal system, and may also teach students about popular methods of legal research and advocacy in the U.S. In addition to these topics, many programs also explain that their program can help students become familiar with American law school culture, professor expectations, and student responsibilities. To this we add that students in these programs will also learn a great deal about U.S. culture in general while attending them.

What should I look for in a summer law program?

As with any educational endeavor, you should look for programs at highly ranked schools that have well-rounded curricula. Beyond that, your personal goals will determine which program is the best fit. If you intend to seek an LLM, especially one in a specific topic area, you should select a program that offers the specialized courses you seek. And if you would like to work in a particular city or region, a school located in that city or region is quite helpful to gaining employment in that geographic area.

What can I expect from a typical program?

Tuition costs are generally thousand of dollars, and vary widely by program. While some programs offer certificates for completion, others do not. As mentioned above, courses included in summer law programs typically include the following:

  • Introduction to the American Legal System: Many countries around the world use a civil law system in which laws are codified, and in which the code is the primary source of law. In the U.S., on the other hand, common law systems are in place. This means that, in addition to some codified law, opinions issued by judges (referred to as “precedent” or “case law”) are a major source of legal authority. Summer law programs often introduce students to these concepts to provide the necessary background prior to studying American law in-depth.
  • American Legal Research and Writing: Building on the information learned above, most programs offer workshops to help students gain the skills needed to use American legal research tools and methods (such as LexisNexis and Westlaw, as well as hardcopy resources).  Specific formats and rhetorical devices commonly used in American legal writing are also important, and are the focus of many programs.
  • Other events: As cultural understanding and comfort with typical American interactions are key to a foreign attorney’s ability to practice law in the U.S. or in conjunction with U.S. parties, some programs offer social events, trips, and other outings to enhance cultural immersion and learning. Other programs will also offer courses to help students develop skills relevant to the American corporate workplace, such as corresponding by email and other related matters.

Which schools offer summer law programs?

Many law schools that offer LLM programs also offer summer law programs for foreign attorneys. While a comprehensive list is not available, students should consult the website of any school that offers LLM programs to learn about summer intensive courses.

To provide students with a sampling of typical programs, here are brief descriptions of four summer law programs offered by schools located in different major regions of the U.S.

  • Washington University School of Law offers an online legal English course. The course is geared toward legal professionals who want to build proficiency in legal English including: engaging in dialogue using the Socratic Method, legal note taking, and analyzing and briefing court cases. Visit the legal English page for more information.
  • USC Gould School of Law:  Courses offered include legal topics (e.g. corporate law, government and history, trial advocacy, intellectual property, entertainment law, and more), legal vocabulary, English speaking (practiced through case discussion), legal writing, and LLM course exam strategies.
  • Vanderbilt: This intensive program takes place over four weeks, for about 20 hours each week.  The course covers LLM program preparation, oral and written English skill development, and also includes trips to courts and other legal venues.
  • Michigan: In addition to the legal research and American law courses one might expect, Michigan offers courses in academic presentations, workshops on adjusting to U.S. culture, and law-related field trips.
  • Syracuse: Syracuse’s program is focused on core competencies related to the English language such as listening, speaking, reading, and writing, but the program also addresses legal research techniques.

As you can see, programs vary quite a bit, and students should do research to find a program that is suited to their individual interests and needs. For foreign attorneys seeking more information on developing skills and credentials related to U.S. law, without the need to travel to the U.S., please visit a program site.