Tübingen Exchange Program Offers Invaluable Cultural and Legal Education

April 29, 2024

The University of North Carolina School of Law’s partnership with the University of Tübingen in Germany has provided an incredible opportunity for both American and German law students to engage in a cultural exchange while gaining valuable legal knowledge. The program, which began in the summer of 2019, has since grown into a two-week summer program in Tübingen and a two-week visit by German students to Chapel Hill in February.

“The primary purpose is a cultural exchange, learning the legal systems, learning the culture of legal education, and getting to know their peers,” said Rebecca Barraclough Howell, Carolina Law’s director of international programs.

During the summer program in Tübingen, Carolina Law professors teach seminars to 30-40 German law students, while Carolina Law students facilitate small group discussions. This format allows for engaging interactions and helps bridge the differences between the American and German legal education systems. The program also includes exciting excursions, such as visits to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. These experiences provide Carolina Law students with a firsthand look at the workings of international legal institutions and the opportunity to witness multilingual court proceedings.

Each February, 20 of the top German law students from the summer program are selected to visit Chapel Hill for two weeks. During their stay, they attend classes, participate in lectures with their professors, and gain insight into the U.S. legal system through unique experiences. This year, the German students had the opportunity to observe oral arguments at a special session of the North Carolina Court of Appeals held at Carolina Law, allowing them to witness the appellate process in action. They also engaged in a lunch discussion with the Court of Appeals judges. In addition to their time in North Carolina, the students explored Washington, D.C., and enjoyed a private tour of the Supreme Court.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the program is its inclusivity. While many study abroad programs require a minimum 3.0 GPA, Howell takes a more flexible approach, recognizing that students with compelling stories and a strong interest in the program can benefit greatly from the experience, even if their grades fall slightly below the traditional cutoff. This approach allows for a diverse group of participants who may not have had the opportunity to study abroad as undergraduates.

The Tübingen exchange program also offers professional networking opportunities for students interested in working abroad after graduation. Students have the chance to secure internships with global legal firms in Germany, such as White & Case LLP in Frankfurt and Gleiss Lutz in Stuttgart, which are accessible to students who may not be fluent in German.

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, programs like the Tübingen exchange are more valuable than ever. They provide students with a global perspective on legal systems and cultures, fostering understanding and cooperation across borders. Carolina Law’s investment in the Tübingen exchange program is a testament to its mission of equipping students with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in an increasingly global legal environment. By providing students with hands-on experience in international legal systems and cultures, the law school is ensuring that its graduates are well-prepared to navigate the complexities of cross-border legal work and to serve as effective advocates in an interconnected world.

With glowing feedback from participants and a growing interest among students, the Tübingen exchange program is poised for continued success. As Howell notes, the experience can be a source of inspiration and motivation for students facing the challenges of law school, providing them with a clear sense of purpose and a goal to work towards. By investing in this program, the Carolina Law is investing in the future of its students and the legal profession as a whole.