European Site Visits, Part I: Glasgow and our Academic Exchange

Over twelve days, I will be traveling across western and central Europe. The purposes of this trip are: (1) to conduct site visits for our students receiving academic credit for studying or working abroad and (2) to continue finding good internships at international organizations, UN agencies and international tribunals for the summer and for semester-long practica.

The last time I was in Glasgow, I was a 3L participant on the inaugural Dean’s Travel Program, a special opportunity for 15 students to spend a week learning about comparative law in other countries or regions. Our destination was Scotland, and we spent a memorable week visiting Scottish Parliament, touring the Scottish Highlands, searching for Nessie and watching a 6 Nations Rugby match between Scotland and Ireland. When we visited Glasgow, we spent most of our time at the University of Glasgow, listening to special guest lectures from Glasgow’s renowned faculty and taking a tour of the historic campus. While we devoured haggis and discovered Strongbow, Dean Walker was working hard to set up a partnership with the University of Glasgow for an Academic Exchange, to begin the very next semester. When the program was finalized and announced, I remember wishing I had another year of law school left so I could partake. In its first year, two University of Glasgow students joined us at St. John’s, while two St. John’s students went to Glasgow. Roughly 18 months later, I witnessed just how phenomenal this Academic Exchange is for St. John’s students from the other side.

I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and my first destination was a welcome dinner with our St. John’s students currently in Glasgow, and the Glasgow students who spent the 2013-14 academic year at St. John’s. Getting to see firsthand how the Glasgow students were taking care of our St. John’s students demonstrated the value of the Exchange: Glasgow students join us in their third year of school, and when they return for their fourth year, they provide our St. John’s students with familiar faces and an intimate knowledge of all things Glasgow. After hearing how well Katy and Jo (our first two Glasgow students) did as ambassadors for our current students, I already know that our students going there next fall will benefit tremendously from the current Glasgow students at St. John’s. The students gave me a tour of the Student Union, and when they started preparing to go out for the night, jetlag, old age and common sense brought me back to my hotel and into bed.

The entire group (minus me!) Three SJU students studying in Glasgow and our two Glasgow students who spent last year at St. John's.

The entire group (minus me!) at dinner. Three St. John’s students studying in Glasgow and our two Glasgow students who spent last year at St. John’s.


Thursday began with a detailed one-on-one progress report with one of the three St. John’s students. These progress reports provide our students with an opportunity to let us know how things are going, diagnose any problems and build up our institutional knowledge of the University of Glasgow.   Afterwards, three professors from Glasgow took me to a wonderful lunch, where we discussed the challenges facing law schools in Scotland and the United States, innovative approaches to legal education in both jurisdictions and Scottish football. From a professional development standpoint, it was a great opportunity to spend time hearing from Glasgow faculty.

From lunch, I sat in on two of the classes our students are taking: (1) Criminal Law Theory & History and (2) Commercial Banking. Criminal Law Theory & History is an intimate, twenty-person seminar and the day’s discussion focused on whether or not omissions to act should be punishable under the law. The professor was absolutely riveting and the seminar format was very different from the American law school approach. Rather than reading cases or analyzing statutes, the professor led a discussion into the reasons why omissions should or should not be criminalized. The topic was discussed at an extremely high level and I was proud that our students were two of the most engaged in the classroom. When I double-checked with the professor at the end of class, he reassured me that they’re both just as engaged every week, and they were not putting on a show for me. The professor seamlessly weaved together Scots Law, other European countries’ laws and even US law.

The second class, Commercial Banking was quite different. Although the professor usually engages in a seminar format of teaching, the material that day could only lend itself to a lecture format. Like my previous lecture, the professor did a fantastic job bringing together various sources of law, and providing a global context to his discussion of the 2007 credit crunch. The professor, one of the most knowledgeable people in Scotland on commercial banking. By way of background, he:

was appointed by The Scottish Government to undertake an Independent Review of Regulation, Audit, Inspection and Complaints handling of public services in Scotland – “The Crerar Review”. The findings of the review were published in September 2007 and make a range of recommendations to streamline the current system and to ensure the scrutiny regime is delivering improved public services focused on the needs of the people who use them. Most of his key recommendations were enshrined in statute – The Public Sector Reform Scotland Act 2010.

Although I had never taken a banking course, I felt like I learned enough to intelligently talk about Basel III, stress tests, and the history of Glasgow’s relationship with bankers. I went from taking notes on the professor-student interaction (what I was supposed to be doing) to taking notes on the day’s lecture (not what I was supposed to be doing). I was happy to find out from the professor at the end of class that both our students in that class are “constantly engaged.”

Justin Curcio '15 and Christian Corkery '15 outside Glasgow's law school building.

Justin Curcio ’15 and Christian Corkery ’15 outside Glasgow’s law school building.


From there, we met up as a group to take photos in front of the Stair Building (the law school) and the main campus with a banner I brought from home. I then had an opportunity to conduct my progress reports with the other two students. Hearing from them about what they love the most to what they wish they knew before they left was extremely insightful, and will allow us to better inform future students about must-take courses (Criminal Law Theory and History), how to plan for the semester (complete your visa early and don’t fly into Dublin) and what phone plan to subscribe to (pay as you go). From there, we toured two of the students’ housing accommodations, checking out the community building (complete with a great study room, laundry room and distraction room) and their dormitory. After finalizing my day’s notes, I left them to return to my hotel and prepare for my Friday presentation.

The distraction room

The distraction room

On Friday, I had the opportunity (along with one of our students and both returning Glasgow students) to meet a large class of second-years to discuss studying abroad at St. John’s Law and taking the NY bar exam. In addition, I was able to present a former student from the exchange with the two Dean’s Awards for Excellence she received in the spring semester for achieving the highest grade in those classes. My presentation focused on why the students should think about studying abroad as third-years and why specifically they should think about studying at St. John’s. Glasgow has partnerships with other US-based institutions, but St. John’s is the only partner institution in the New York City area. I focused on (1) the opportunities available for students studying in New York City, including internships, lectures, symposia and volunteer opportunities in New York City; (2) the individualized attention Glasgow students receive from our faculty and administrators; and (3) the large selection of courses available in international and comparative law while also offering students the necessary foundation in US law.

We then spoke about students interested in taking the NY bar examination. I was excited to talk about this area, having recently passed the bar exam myself. However, earlier this month there was a call for NY to shift to the Uniform Bar Exam. I spent time explaining the status of Glasgow students in relation to the bar exam (treated for the most part as a common law jurisdiction), the differences in results between American and foreign trained test-takers (Americans tend to do much better) and the composition and requirements of the NY bar exam (NY Practice is important). We also discussed why a shift to the Uniform Bar Exam is being discussed. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to present one of our former students with her two spring 2014 Dean’s Awards, to roaring applause. We then took questions from students contemplating studying abroad. It was a great opportunity to really speak with students about why they should attend St. John’s. I look forward to welcoming two fantastic students to St. John’s next fall.

John Geager '15 brushing up on Intellectual Property on floor 7 of the Glasgow library.

John Geager ’15 brushing up on Intellectual Property on floor 7 of the Glasgow library.

After a quick gift shop purchase for our Office of Transnational Programs, the first city on my site visit was checked off. Tomorrow morning I leave for Vienna!

Our first two Glasgow students (L to R Katy McBridge and Johanna Crowther) representing St. John's Law even back on their home campus!

Our first two Glasgow students (L to R: Katy McBride and Johanna Crowther) representing St. John’s Law even back on their home campus!



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