Guanajuato Summer Law Institute a Unique Experience
December 12, 2012
Maxie Gallardo (`14) loved the NAFTA course. Nick Davis (`14) liked that he started his second year of law school six credits ahead of his classmates. Jeff Gordon (`14) enjoyed learning how different the Mexican legal system is from that in the United States.
Regardless what they liked most about the Guanajuato Summer Law Institute, these students considered their 2012 summer semester in Mexico a highlight of their educational experience at the University of New Mexico School of Law.
For the past 23 years, the institute has been attracting students from across the United States seeking to immerse themselves in Mexican culture and learn about the Mexican legal system. Every summer, up to 75 students enroll in the four-week program. Some stay longer to take advantage of an externship program, which offers a unique opportunity to work alongside a Mexican judge or lawyer. In recent years, classes have been opened up to Mexican law students, further broadening the cultural diversity of the institute. A conversational Spanish class is also offered to help improve language skills.
Course topics are designed to address timely subjects not always available in typical law-school curricula. Some of those subjects have included NAFTA, immigration law, Mexican business law and international business transactions. In 2013, professors Christine Zuni Cruz (`82), Jennifer Moore and Institute Director Antoinette Sedillo Lopez will introduce a course on comparative human rights with a focus on Latin America.
The institute began as a partnership between the UNM School of Law and the Universidad de Guanajuato Facultad de Derecho, but has evolved into a consortium that also includes Texas Tech University and Southwestern University law schools.
The institute’s faculty is comprised of professors from the member schools. UNM law professors who have taught in the institute have enjoyed their own immersion into the Mexican culture and getting to spend more time outside the classroom with students than they are able to do during the school year.
“It’s a nice pace of life and a nice mix of students from other schools,” said Zuni Cruz.
Students appreciate that informality and also like learning from Mexican professors and those from other U.S. law schools.
Gallardo said she felt completely safe during her time in Mexico, but has one warning for female law students interested in attending the institute: “Don’t bring heels.” The cobblestone streets that wind through the colonial city of Guanajuato are not conducive to modern shoe styles.