Educating lawyers with a global perspective
Notre Dame marks 50 years of the London Law Program
The Notre Dame London Law Program was born 50 years ago, in the fall of 1968, with the idea that law students would become better lawyers if their legal education provided them with a global perspective.
Over the past half-century, more than 1,500 students from Notre Dame Law School have studied in the London Law Program for a semester or a full academic year.
Lord David E. Neuberger, former president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, affirmed the idea behind the London Law Program on Sunday evening when he delivered the keynote address at a dinner celebrating the program’s 50th anniversary.
“The idea of giving law students a proper understanding of other countries by coming here, and other jurisdictions by studying around the world, is a very noble one,” Neuberger said.
“It makes the student a more civilized person, generally, a more informed person, a more understanding person — which is particularly important in these times,” he explained. “But I think it also makes you a better lawyer. If you know about other systems of law, you can put your system of law in context.”
The Notre Dame London Law Program was a unique experiment in American legal education when the Law School started it. Today, it is the oldest study-abroad program offered by an American law school and the only full-year London program approved by the American Bar Association.
The Law School and Notre Dame International have been celebrating the London Law Program’s 50th anniversary throughout 2018 with speakers and events at Notre Dame’s London Global Gateway near Trafalgar Square. The culminating celebration, a Golden Jubilee, started Saturday and continues through Tuesday in London with events for alumni, students and faculty of the program.
The dinner on Sunday was held at Middle Temple — an exclusive Inn of Court with numerous connections to the United States. For instance, five of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were members of Middle Temple.
When the University of Notre Dame dedicated a new facility for the London Law Centre in 1983, the dedication ceremony included a dinner at Middle Temple with Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger as keynote speaker. At the ceremony, University President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., said, “It’s a marvelous thing for young lawyers to be citizens of the world and to know how law is a force for peace, because it’s for justice.”
Lord Neuberger noted at the end of his speech that Sunday’s ceremony was happening in the same venue where Notre Dame celebrated that previous milestone for the London Law Program. He concluded his remarks by asking everyone to raise their glasses in a toast to the memory and legacy of the late Father Hesburgh, who was a champion for international cooperation, peace and human rights during his years as Notre Dame’s president.
In many respects, the London Law Program’s relevance has only grown over the decades as globalization has resulted in a world where people have more and more connections that transcend borders.
“The world economy and legal systems are coming together under globalization,” said Michael Addo, the London Law Program’s director. “Effective legal practice requires any lawyer to step out and see how the rest of the world operates. London provides that as a global hub for legal scholarship and legal practice.”
Students who study in London have opportunities to learn inside and outside the classroom while participating in the program. They can take study trips to British courts and visit international organizations in Brussels and Geneva. They can also learn about the practice of law through externships in which they work under the supervision of British barristers and solicitors.
The London Law Program was the reason that Kimberly Schreiber, a member of Notre Dame Law School’s Class of 2020, chose to attend Notre Dame for law school.
In addition to the opportunity to study American law at its roots in England, to experience London’s culture and to learn about British and European legal practice through study trips and externships, she said, it has also been fulfilling to learn from the program’s diverse professors.
“We’ve had a couple of American professors, a couple of Greek professors, in addition to English professors. Most of them are professors elsewhere or they’re attorneys elsewhere, and they have very different experiences. They have a totally different view on the law and how the law works,” Schreiber said.
Students who participate in the London Law Program will frequently describe it as a life-changing experience.
“Many students who come here have traveled all over the world, but you’d be surprised how many students have never left even their home state, much less the United States,” said Nell Jessup Newton, the Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School. “They spend a semester or a year here in London, and I’ve seen them come back transformed. They’re more comfortable in their own skin, they’re more sophisticated. They have a much better sense of self and greater self-confidence. This translates for them into success in the rest of their careers.”
Chris McLemore ’07 J.D. is one of those graduates whose life was altered by participating in the London Law Program. Both he and his wife, Jaime McLemore ’07 J.D., were students in the London Law Program for the 2005-06 academic year and have practiced law in London since graduating from the Law School.
“When I came to study in London, when the airplane wheels touched down in London, it was the first time I’d ever been out of the United States aside from one day to see a baseball game in Toronto. When we left again and the wheels picked up to go back to South Bend, I knew that I had to come back,” he said.
McLemore said the London Law Program provided two key things for him and his wife. First, it helped them understand that they could live in London, not just on a study-abroad basis but on a professional basis. And second, it provided them with professional connections that were important when looking for jobs to return to London.
“When employers here in London are looking at potential candidates, they want to see people who have a real connection to the city and not somebody that might be here temporarily,” McLemore said. “Being able to demonstrate to them that I was here in London for an entire year and that we’d taken the extra steps to really immerse ourselves in London was a huge step forward for us and for our careers, which have been here ever since.”