International Opportunities Abound for BYU Law Students

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).

To learn more about BYU Law externships, click here. To learn more about fellowships with the International Center for Law and Religion, click here.

Click on one of the seven countries listed below to discover the value an externship or fellowship offers.

Researching State Succession at Bonn University

Bonn Germany 2 “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.”
Bonn Germany
Touring the world is an added benefit of spending summers abroad. Shelby Thurgood, Cate Mumford and Brynn Wistisen met up at the Brandenburg Gate with classmate Britanni Nelson, who was completing a fellowship in Frankfurt at the Area Counsel Office for the LDS Church.
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 Africa

ben thornell   While 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 Countries

brenden stuart hong kong BYU 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.

dublin ireland 2 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.

Analyzing Visa Laws of Five South American Countries

Lima Peru When Nathan Kinghorn left for Lima, Peru, as a BYU Law student fellow for the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, he was looking forward to learning about the legal work done in the area counsel office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his former mission area. Kinghorn had come to BYU Law with a desire to be actively engaged in religious freedom and he saw this externship as a training ground. What he didn’t expect was the wealth of experience he would be able to draw upon from those he worked with during the externship. The research and analytical skills Kinghorn gained his first year of law school were invaluable during his externship as he had the opportunity to analyze and compile the visa laws of five South American countries in an effort to make sure Church leaders, employees, and missionaries had the right visas. He also gained organizational and workflow skills from the attorneys he worked with. “The lawyers have to manage several things at the same time,” he said. “It’s important to find a flow.” Kinghorn’s experience sparked a desire to work in an area office in the future, but first, he will become a JAG officer with the United States Air Force. “The Air Force was impressed that I had lived in Peru and that I returned to work in Peru over the summer,” Kinghorn said.

Analyzing Russia's Anti-terrorism Law

Joshua Prince 2 “Religious freedom and freedom of belief have been aptly described as our first freedoms. The ability to think and worship freely are what make us human,” explains Joshua Prince, a student at BYU Law. “When people are not free to live according to their religion or even their moral compass, that sense of humanity is lost.” Prince’s interest in religious freedom was kindled while serving in the Donetsk Ukraine LDS mission. “I became particularly troubled by the hoops that we had to jump through just to be able to practice our religion,” he said. Upon returning home in 2011, Prince began to research the extent of Ukraine’s religious freedom, and found that it was considered relatively free compared to many countries of the world. “I began to realize just how important religious freedom is and how much I have personally taken it for granted,” he said. The same year he returned from his mission, Prince volunteered to help Russian delegates at the Annual Symposium hosted by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies. Attending the event flamed his already growing interest in religious freedom, and he decided then he wanted to be a lawyer. In 2015, he enrolled in BYU Law School, having chosen it in large part because of its international presence and the International Center for Law and Religion Studies. After completing his first year of law school, Prince realized his dream to promote religious freedom while working as a summer fellow for the International Center for Law and Religion Studies. He joined practicing attorneys at the LDS Office of General Counsel for the European East Area in Moscow, Russia, where he researched laws affecting religious freedom in Russia and Eastern Europe. Some of his research included analyzing the anti-terrorism law passed in Russia on July 6, 2016, that put strict limitations on proselytizing and other faith-sharing activities. This new law requires careful legal analysis to help the LDS Church modify how its LDS missionaries share their faith. Prince explained that the new law and its restrictions are upsetting to members of many religious denominations in Russia. “Several provisions in the new law provide reasons to be concerned, particularly an amendment to the Housing Code of the Russian Federation that makes missionary activity in residential areas illegal,” he said.   Through his research and his time spent in the Office of General Counsel, Prince enjoyed the opportunity to use and develop his legal skills while he saw those skills modeled by attorneys in the office. “I worked daily with incredibly skilled attorneys who offered me constructive feedback and really made me feel as though my contribution mattered,” he said. “I was able to use the research and writing skills that I learned in my first year at BYU Law on a daily basis as I offered solutions to challenges.” While he isn’t sure yet what he hopes to do for a legal career, Prince is grateful for the opportunity to promote religious freedom. “There are few places in the world where it is threatened more than Eastern Europe,” he said. “I knew I was making a meaningful difference in the lives of real people.”

Assisting Church Legal Affairs in South Africa

BYU Law student Shad Larson’s interest in religious freedom and his drive to make a positive impact led him to become an International Center for Law and Religion Studies student research fellow and participate in the summer externship program.  He felt his first year of law school prepared him to successfully address the challenges he was presented in his externship in Johannesburg, South Africa. “Law School has taught me to think differently,” he said. “In my externship, I was presented with many different challenges, and I was able to figure them out because of this new way of thinking and approaching problems.” Larson enjoyed working for the Johannesburg office of legal counsel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where he was exposed to a variety of different issues, people, and areas of the law. He had served a mission in the area and was eager to revisit the city and people. In addition, his externship provided the opportunity to interact with others on a professional level and to shape the type of lawyer he wants to become. “What I loved most about my externship were the people that I worked with in the office,” he said. “There were a variety of problems and concerns each day, some of them very serious, but the Area Legal Counsel was always kind and patient. This impacted me greatly, and I want to become just like him in how I work and confront problems in my career.”

Comments (1)

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    How do students like Nathan Kinghorn, with families, make international externships possible?

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