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A Guide to Pre-Law Degrees Abroad

Opening statement: Picture crime drama in foreign landscapes and a heroic lawyer that puts the bad guys away. Picture long nights pouring over dusty books filled with twelve-syllable words that will make you the sure winner of any verbal duel. Getting a pre-law degree abroad is a solid career investment and the adventure of a lifetime rolled into one. If the Elle Woods’ bend-and-snap resonated with you or the high-stakes courtroom battles in “Suits” got your blood pumping, it might be time to take your love of the law offscreen and overseas!

Why Earn Your Degree Abroad in Pre-Law?

Laws keep societies in balance by governing everything from appropriate streetwear (hint: birthday suits are not advised by most legal regimes) to suicide and workplace safety to water rights. In an increasingly interconnected world, international laws also help balance relations between countries and forestall outright war, like a handy rulebook that outlines best practices for not killing each other. This makes laws pretty important, and students with the skills to craft and implement them are critical to creating a more just and safe world for all. Students with international experience will be even better equipped than their domestically educated peers to identify and resolve global legal challenges.

Most students pursuing international pre law programs are in it because they’re dying to take their legal studies even further after graduation. Well, good news! Getting a pre-law degree abroad is also a great way to set yourself apart from the crowd on law school and job applications.

Even more important than application appearances, getting a pre-law degree abroad ensures the adventure of a lifetime before hunkering down in law school. Research shows that law school students generally spend too much time in the library and are at regular risk of being smothered by monstrous civil procedure and dispute resolution textbooks. Accordingly, an important part of prepping for law school is getting out there to see the world before torts and con law become your world.

Where to Earn a Pre-Law Degree

From New Zealand’s rugged shores to the neon lights of the Big Apple, there are plenty of places to learn the law of the land in international pre law programs. Whether you’re in search of a lawless Wild West, historic lawmakers like Hammurabi, or the hearty legal regimes of today’s modern urban centers, getting a pre-law degree abroad is a great way to learn and explore.

Home to the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the two main bodies charged with arbitrating international law, The Netherlands is hard to beat as a law degree destination. In addition to top-ranked universities with stellar academic records, students who study in the Netherlands will have access to plenty of opportunities to put their studies into practice with internships at international courts and businesses based in the country. When the law books get you down, an idyllic weekend bike ride through the tulip fields and windmills makes the perfect pick-me-up.

Get back to the roots of all of those Latin legalese terms when you pursue a pre-law degree in Italy. Italian universities have a strong history of legal studies, and law students will benefit from majestic libraries chock-full of legal canons and compagni di studio (study buddies). As an added bonus, students pursuing a law degree in Italy are unlikely to go hungry, as this feeder culture just wouldn’t allow it — so slurp that spaghetti like it’s the law. No need for mens rea (guilty mind) over a little extra tiramisu; you’ll walk it off in the courtroom!

When it comes to Southern Hemisphere pre-law degrees, New Zealand cooks up a great mix of majestic landscapes, fun accents, and academic savviness. This island nation is dotted with urban and rural universities offering a wide range of pre-law specializations, including niche topics like environmental law and indigenous rights. During study breaks, uphold your right to a cuppa (that’s Kiwi for a warm drink) and premeditate your next epic weekend camping adventure.

Types of Pre-Law Degree Programs

Whether it’s common law, international law, or the law of the jungle you’re after, getting a pre-law degree abroad is the ultimate preparation for your future as a legal trailblazer and courtroom conductor. Pre-law programs prep students to navigate the treacherous waters of law school, and the added international experience offers fresh perspectives on legal practice and diverse legal systems. 

In evaluating pre-law programs, students should consider how long the program has been running, the percentage of graduates who get into law programs after graduation, available networking opportunities, average alumni salaries, and program costs. Try not to be sticker shocked by tuition price tags, as financial aid packages and cost of living can affect the overall budget of pre-law degrees considerably. 

Household names like Oxford University’s international pre law programs focus more on the old school legal canon, so expect classes on legal history, ethics, and the philosophy of law. This approach to pre-law studies prioritizes the “big questions” and developing students’ critical thinking skills, whereas younger schools like Australia’s Deakin University are known for a practical approach to learning and a commitment to career-placement after graduation. For bibliophiles, Harvard University hosts the largest law library in the world and is consistently ranked as the world’s top law program. 

Most students elect to pursue undergraduate studies in pre-law, as this is by definition a preparatory degree for further study. A few pre-law graduate programs exist for those not quite ready to commit to law school with a fresh BA, but these are much less common. For students taking a full course load, an undergraduate pre-law degree will take three to four years, and a master’s one or two.

GoAbroad Insider Tips

Research shows that critical thinking and the ability to entertain diverse perspectives are two of the most vital skills for aspiring legal professionals, and there’s no better way to broaden one’s perspective than living abroad. Adapting to new a culture and language is a powerful experience that challenges students to recognize alternative value systems and ways of life. This is a priceless take-away from pursuing pre-law studies abroad and will make you a better arbiter of justice in the long run.

Majoring in law abroad is also an ideal way to gain insight into the workings of international law and how legal disputes are mediated between governments and international corporations. True, laws vary widely between countries, and even across state lines, so students in international pre law programs may have some extra legwork to do before they can pass the bar and start practicing law back home. 

In addition, standardized law school exams are not standard internationally, so if you are angling to get into a JD program that requires the LSAT, note that not all pre-law programs abroad will be catered to this objective. But, objection overruled! This is too good of an opportunity to pass up, and knowledge of other legal systems is sure to give you a more well-rounded and critical perspective of how things work in the homeland.

Closing statement: The reader of this guide (aforementioned “student”) is heretofore entitled to claim all assets related to a pre-law degree abroad, pending commencement. Case closed; see you overseas!

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A Guide To
Pre-Law Degrees Abroad


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