Every summer, BYU Law students travel to over 20 countries for externships and fellowships gaining a breadth of practical experience. As current students begin to explore opportunities for next year, we share some of the experiences our students had in seven countries during the summer of 2016 (select a country in the table below).
Click on one of the seven countries listed below to discover the value an externship or fellowship offers.
Researching State Succession at Bonn University“With the unrest going on in countries around the world, understanding state succession and what makes the transition to a new state easier is vital for current diplomats and world leaders, and even more important for students who will become the diplomats and world leaders of the future,” said Cate Mumford, BYU Law student. Mumford, along with fellow BYU Law students Shelby Thurgood and Brynn Wistisen, spent the early summer researching for Dr. Stephan Talmon at Bonn University in Germany. The students researched recent examples of state succession and international water laws, and their findings will contribute to a forthcoming book by Dr. Talmon. According to Thurgood, “Dr. Talmon’s book will have the most comprehensive information about how new states are formed and the impact those states have on the status quo of international law and relations. This will help leaders, scholars, and students understand what typically happens when a new state emerges so that the changes can be planned for.” As they engaged in the project, the participating BYU Law students quickly built upon the research skills they honed during their first year of law school. For Thurgood, who was researching the 2011 succession of South Sudan from Sudan, this meant learning how to conduct research on subjects for which little analysis currently exists. “I learned how to use alternative databases such as those published by the United Nations and African Union,” Thurgood said. “As you can imagine, my research skills had to improve quickly!” Wistisen, who studied current island ownership disputes, says she “learned how to construct better search terms in order to generate results that were manageable and applicable.” Mumford, who studied Eritrea’s secession from Ethiopia in 1993, appreciated the opportunity to focus on improving research skills. “I had always shied away from research,” she said. “It was nice to have the chance to test out my skills and find that I could conduct effective research.... This experience gave me confidence that will help me throughout my career.” Working in a foreign country was an exciting experience for the students. One of the things that Thurgood appreciated most was the time the workday starts. “Hardly anybody starts working before 10:00 a.m.,” she said. “I thought this was awesome!” The students also enjoyed the rich relationships they developed with Dr. Talmon and their direct supervisor Holly Wesener. “They were so friendly and approachable,” Mumford said. Wistisen agreed. “Both gave us the autonomy to dive into the assigned work and learn more about the ‘real-world’ legal research and writing process for ourselves, but we also felt comfortable to ask for guidance at any stage of the process,” she said. On several occasions, the students were invited to have lunch with their supervisors. During these interactions, Mumford said Wesener introduced them to her other colleagues and made sure they were functioning well in Germany. “It really was such a wonderful environment to work in,” she said. Having finished the fellowship, the students are grateful for the confidence they have gained in their research abilities and their increased understanding of international issues. Whether the students pursue careers in international law or not, they will take with them their improved research abilities and increased understanding of international issues.
Discovering the Legal Challenges Faced by Poor Villages of West AfricaWhile in West Africa for a summer externship, BYU Law student Benjamin Thornell visited a small island village. Living in mud huts and surviving on river water and food from their gardens and livestock, the residents of the village had little access to modern conveniences except for recently installed electricity used to charge batteries for lanterns. Returning to the Accra, Ghana office of legal counsel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thornell‘s very next assignment involved the legal methods used by the LDS Church to authorize humanitarian aid to small towns such as the one he had just visited. Thornell’s responsibilities during his externship involved localizing general law to individual countries, researching and advising on the consequences of retail activity for non-profit organizations, and researching the structures of local governments and how they regulate religious bodies. But, as demonstrated by his experience in the village, he also gained a first-hand understanding of the legal challenges faced by poor villages. As law in West Africa is still fairly unsettled, the research and analysis techniques learned in his first year of law school were not particularly effective. However, the tenacity he learned as a law student to make sure research was complete and accurate was very valuable. Of his externship, Thornell said, “Almost all students learn how to give general legal support over the summer, but I learned how to give it across seven unique developing countries.”
Working With Twelve Asian CountriesBYU Law student Brenden Stuart spent his summer in Hong Kong learning more about the legal workings of the area legal counsel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “It is an interesting and unique talking point in an interview,” Stuart said. “There are very few law students who are able to say they travelled to an international location in order to assist in the legal affairs of a religious organization.” One of Stuart’s responsibilities was to rephrase the reporting obligations of ecclesiastical leaders when they become aware of child abuse into language that is easy for non-attorneys to understand. Working with twelve attorneys in twelve Asian countries was not a "cut-and-paste" job, but rather required thoughtful consideration of each country’s laws. Stuart felt the ability to take something complex and simplify it into everyday language was a valuable skill he picked up as a first-year law student.
Researching an E.U. Directive as an Extern in Ireland
Working as an extern at Matheson Law Firm in Dublin, Ireland, BYU Law student Elizabeth MacLachlan deepened her understanding of the interactions between business and law. MacLachlan worked in Matheson’s International Corporate Group, which advises clients on Irish corporate law and assists with mergers and acquisitions. Through this process, MacLachlan observed the differences between the Irish and the American legal systems and noted the law’s impact on business activities.
As part of her summer’s work, MacLachlan researched legislation that will “impact all of the countries in the European Union (EU) and large public-interest entities doing business in those countries.” McLachlan was part of a large-group research project that considered the potential impacts for clients of an EU non-financial reporting directive. “This was probably my favorite assignment because it was full of traditional law school research, but it had the ‘real life’ element,” she said. According to MacLachlan, the directive requires EU member states to implement legislation for non-financial reporting by large businesses on issues related to the environment, anti-corruption, and diversity.
Gathering information and making a contribution to the work being done on these significant issues allowed MacLachlan to learn about the important role each professional plays in a project. “I think it’s important to treat your work as if you are personally submitting it to your client or to the court,” she said. “If you make an effort to get even the small details right, the work you do will be better and your clients will be happier.” MacLachlan feels her first year at BYU Law helped her to succeed in her work in Ireland. “My BYU Law School education has helped with my assignments in this job because I think more critically about the implications of legislation and case law as I am researching,” she said.