Contact: Melody Mitchell, NIU College of Law
September 10, 2007
DeKalb, Ill. — The Northern Illinois University College of Law welcomed 21 French law students and two professors from the University Montesquieu-Bordeaux IV on Friday, August 31, for a three-week program titled Introduction to the American Legal System.
The French delegation will attend lectures taught by NIU Law faculty that focus on the structure of American court systems, the relationship between federal and state legal systems, and the institutional structure and procedural dimensions of the American criminal justice system. The group also will take a number of field trips including to the Illinois State Capital, Illinois Supreme Court, and the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
The program is coordinated by Professors David Gaebler and Daniel Reynolds. This is the first time that NIU Law has hosted a program for foreign law students. “The program may well be the first of its kind among American law schools,” according to Gaebler. Professor Gaebler added that some law schools offer LL.M. programs for foreign law graduates, but he is not aware of any programs that host international students earlier in their legal studies, nor any that offer a short-term introduction to the American Legal System.
This exchange program comes about from an 11-year relationship between NIU Law and the University Montesquieu-Bordeaux IV. Since 1996, more than 150 NIU Law students have participated in a summer study abroad program to Agen, France, in cooperation with the University of Bordeaux. The six-week program introduces NIU Law students to France’s Civil Law system as well as to the European Union Legal system. According to Professor Reynolds, “Our French hosts at the University of Bordeaux have always been very gracious and generous to our NIU students and this gives us a chance to reciprocate.”
International exchange programs provide opportunities for law students to exchange ideas and perspectives. Ultimately, Professor Gaebler hopes that the programs spark students to “think about and question aspects of their own systems that they have always taken for granted. It is hard to fully understand your own system until you have the opportunity to compare it to something,” he explained.
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The only public law school in the greater Chicago area, NIU Law has previously been ranked first in the nation for government placement, according to U.S. News and World Report. Nearly one-third of its graduates choose a career in public interest, including more than 50 alumni in the judiciary — a remarkable accomplishment for a law school with less than 3,000 graduates. In honor of its commitment to public service, NIU Law received the 2001 Excellence in Pro Bono and Public Interest Service Award.
Above: Students from the University Montesquieu-Bordeaux IV gathered outside the NIU Law School for a picture.
In the center (from left) are the program coordinators: NIU Law Professors David Gaebler and Daniel Reynolds, and University Montesquieu-Bordeaux IV Law Professors Jacques Meladeck and Jean Pierre Hillaire.
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