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Interviews with Visiting Exchange Students

Juan Franco and Madeleine Hammerman, two current Exchange Students, took time to answer questions regarding their experience here at UNM School of Law.

Juan Franco

Describe your home law school (name and location, undergrad or grad degree, number of students, first jobs typically held by graduates, other details you want to include).

My home law school is the ‘Facultad de Derecho de la UNAM en CU’. It literally translates to: Law Faculty of UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) in CU (University City, which is the campus ). It is definitely the best public school of law in Mexico, and probably the best school period (most private school teachers graduated from my school). With more than 13,000 students and 1,000 professors, it is located in southern Mexico City. It offers morning and evening courses (degree, graduate, masters and PHD), as well as weekend and internet based programs.

In Mexico, one can start Law School right after High School, however, law degrees tend to be longer than others. Right now, for example, I am a 5th year student (it is a 10 semester program).

Students usually start working at law firms as assistants during sophomore and senior years. Those who want to follow a more academic path, tend to start as assistants to researchers (investigadores) and/or teachers. Some may want to focus on a judiciary career, so they would start as assistants at local or federal courts (working at federal courts is more rewarding, demanding, and pay is also better, but it is harder to work in such places).

What attracted you to spend a semester at UNM School of Law as an exchange student this semester?

Mostly, the classes it offers and the fact that I would be able to practice and improve my English. I am mainly interested in international law and philosophy of law, but I also like environmental law and human rights law topics.

Did you choose UNM over any other U.S. law schools? If so, why?

Yes I did, I had about 4 other US options (I don’t really remember which ones they were), but I went with UNM because of the classes it offers and the fact that it was rated 18th in the US.

Which classes are you taking?

Right now I am taking Bioethics and International Criminal Law as writing seminars, and Environmental Law as a regular exam-based class.

From what you have experienced so far, how does the method of instruction or other aspects of U.S. legal education compare with your home school?

The method itself is not different, per se, what varies is the level of commitment of both faculty and students. Here, teachers are punctual, students do their readings, and classes in general are more demanding. In Mexico I would usually sign-up for 6 classes and still have time to spend time with my girlfriend, my friends, my family, do sports, travel. Here, 9 credit hours are more than enough to keep me busy. Specially the writing seminars.

After your semester here, how many more semesters must you complete at your home school to complete your degree?

After my semester here, I must complete one more semester at my home school to complete my degree.

What would be your ideal first job once you complete your law degree?

My ideal job would be Legal Research Assistant at the Legal Research Institute at UNAM (IIJ – Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas de la UNAM).

If you are interested in any law student organizations at UNM, which ones do you plan to join?

I am not particularly interested in joining any student organizations at the moment. But if I had to, probably one which addressed environmental concerns.

Would you like to share any information with your UNM classmates about any of your hobbies, sports activities, or other personal interests?

I sure would. I am 22 years old. I am a 3rd degree Okinawa Karate-Do Black Belt, and an amateur boxer (11-1-2). I also trained kick-boxing for 2 years, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu for 6 months. I used to have a rock band. We played together for 5 years and recorded 15 songs (5 in our first EP, and 10 in our first album). I worked at a labor and civil law firm for three months and hated it. I like reading historic novels, but also read all sorts of books. I used to play soccer and basketball in high-school. I recently ran a full Marathon (the Mexico City Marathon) in under 4 hours, and my father and I arrived 2nd place in a regatta (sailboat race) last year. I have a girlfriend. We have been together for almost five years now, and are very happy. I have a very supportive, intelligent and successful family. I guess I could go on, but I’ll leave it here.

Madeleine Hammerman

Describe your home law school (name and location, undergrad or grad degree, number of students, first jobs typically held by graduates, other details you want to include).

My home law school is called Linköping University and is located in Linköping, Sweden (about 2h south from Stockholm). The law program is called “Commercial and Business Law” and is offered with three specializations; Economics, French and German. French and German specializations mainly focus on the law of the United Nations mixed with language studies and Economics focuses on economics and business law. It offers both undergrad and graduate degrees, I finished my undergrad with specialization in Economics before the summer so I have just started on my graduate degree. The number of students at the law program is roughly 400, counting both grad and undergrad. At the university there are about 27,000 students in total. 2/3 of graduates get their first job in the private sector and 1/3 in the public sector. Graduates in the private sector usually get their first job at a bank or other finance related companies, in the public sector most graduates get their first job at a government agency.

What attracted you to spend a semester at UNM School of Law as an exchange student this semester?

When I applied at my home university to do a semester abroad my main focus was to find a good law school with great academic possibilities and after some research of the universities that had exchange programs with my home university UNM was the obvious choice. Also, the location of the school was a contributing factor, since I’ve spent some time in Florida and California I wanted the opportunity to experience a different part of the country.

Did you choose UNM over any other U.S. law schools? If so, why?

UNM was my first choice of U.S law schools, my home university have exchange programs with North Dakota State University, University of Oklahoma, West Virginia University and Willamette University.

Which classes are you taking?

Energy Law, Oil and Gas Law, Environmental Law and Wills and Trusts Law.

From what you have experienced so far, how does the method of instruction or other aspects of U.S. legal education compare with your home school?

It is very different, at my home university you have the main responsibility for your studies, there’s not attendance policy and none or very few assignments, so you have to make sure you actually do what’s necessary to excel in your classes. I like that though since it also gives you the opportunity to plan your studies the way that works best for you. We also only do one class at a time, so there’s no big final for all the classes during the end of the semester instead we have 2-4 finals (depending on how many credits the classes are) during the semester. The Socratic method is not as commonly used at home as it is here, we mostly have lecture based classes, so that’s also a big difference that will take some time getting used to. I do think that experiencing a completely different legal system and a new way of learning law will benefit me greatly when I get back to my home university, and it’s also lots of fun!

After your semester here, how many more semesters must you complete at your home school to complete your degree?

I have 3 semesters left when I get back.

What would be your ideal first job once you complete your law degree?

Something in corporate law, I would really like to do in-house counsel since that would give me the opportunity to practice both law and the business aspect of my degree.

If you are interested in any law student organizations at UNM, which ones do you plan to join?

Student organizations are very important to me and something I invested a lot of time in at my home university, so finding a good student organization at UNM was very high on my list when I got here. I’m planning on joining the Women’s Law Caucus and if anyone has an organization they would like to recommend feel free to come up to me in school and let me know.