Cross Cultural Legal Comparison

17 Nov

With the mounting pile of papers and assignments I’m facing toward the end of the semester, it’s easy to forget why I love being abroad. But then I have a conversation or an experience that wouldn’t be possible back home and it reminds me why I came here. For example, this week I went out for coffee with two girls from my criminology class. One is studying law in Germany, the other in New Zealand. It was really interesting to hear about their university structure and legal systems. Here’s what I learned:

  • Both girls are studying law at their respective universities. University and law school are one and the same for them, so they’ll be able to practice law after they graduate.
  • In Germany, students study law for 5 years. Their assignments are marked but don’t count for anything. Instead, after they graduate they take 6 months to a year to study for a huge test that covers everything they learned. Similar to the bar exam we have to take in the US, but it’s crazy to me that they have no grades for the entirety of their university experience!
  • German law students can become a judge after they graduate/pass the exam. No experience practicing law in the field required.
  • Their university costs are so low. I can’t remember the exact figures, but they both pay less than $10,000 per year in tuition. When I explained how much education costs in America, even for in-state tuition at a state school, they were both surprised.
  • Large law firms in New Zealand have billable hours too. Exactly the same as in the US where lawyers have to clock every 6 minutes of work they put into a case.

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