UConn Law From a Foreign Perspective

by Victoria Rowley

Studying abroad has become an increasingly popular choice for many students worldwide, and I’m just one of many who decided this year to embark on the opportunity to undertake an exchange program abroad. Having now been in the U.S. for three months, I decided to look back on my time here so far and set out some of the main differences between studying at UConn Law compared to studying at my home university, The University of Nottingham in England.

Postgraduate Study
Law in the UK can be studied as an undergraduate degree, which means not all students necessarily want to become lawyers but are more interested in law as an academic subject. UK students use their law degrees to enter a variety of professions aside from law, including politics, marketing, and accountancy. In comparison, law in the US is a postgraduate program that many students undertake in order to go into practice. As a result, and as the UConn School of Law website states, student life is focused on developing the skills and education necessary to become practice ready professionals. I have found that UConn Law, therefore, has a much bigger focus, that is preparing students for a career as a lawyer through externships as well as clinics and practical based learning classes.

Variety of Classes
To graduate with an English law degree (LLB) you must have completed seven core subjects; contract law, criminal law, land law, public law, European Union law, trusts and torts. As each subject typically lasts for an entire academic year, there is less opportunity during your three year LLB program to pick non-compulsory classes. For me, studying at UConn Law has given me the chance to choose a lot more of my own classes, the majority of which would not be offered at my home university, such as American Legal History or International Business Transactions.

Socratic Teaching Method
A major difference between studying at UConn Law and at my home university is the style of teaching. At the University of Nottingham, subjects are taught in large lectures with little student participation and are complimented by small group tutorials of between six to eight students. It is during tutorials that students are expected to participate and answer numerous questions on the subject material that has been set. In contrast, UConn Law utilizes the Socratic teaching method and the “on-call” system to encourage participation in larger classes. Although it can be daunting to speak in front of many more students than there would be in tutorials, the “on call” system has made me much more confident in speaking in front of others.

Student Organizations
The Law School has over 30 student organizations on campus ranging from the Connecticut Alliance of International Lawyers to the Christian Legal Society. A difference I have noticed between UConn Law student organizations and University of Nottingham student organizations is that UConn organizations often focus on a particular area of legal practice, such as Sports or Military Law. This means that students have plenty of opportunities through events, such as brown bag lunches and symposia, to find out what it is like to work in a particular practice field. In comparison, in the UK there seems to be a greater focus on the social aspect of student organizations. It is not uncommon for a student organization to have multiple executive board members whose sole responsibility is to organize the yearly social calendar.