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Study of International Law Becomes de rigueur 1 - 2 - 3 - 4- 5- 6 - 7 - 8

The rise of multinational corporations, the removal of trade barriers between countries, the easy movement of people and information across borders conspire to make the world smaller and more interdependent. In simple terms, financial and human capital moves more quickly and travels more widely today. That means Penn Law students – many of whom opt to begin their careers with major law firms on the East and West Coast – will find themselves working for employers who, out of necessity, maintain international offices.

Nearly half of the 250 largest law firms in the United States support international offices, according to a survey conducted by the National Law Journal two years ago. Locales vary from London, Paris and Berlin to Tokyo, Beijing, and Taipei, with practitioners at numerous points in between.

Such an environment, deLisle says, makes it de rigueur for students to grasp the commercial laws and structure of financial markets in other countries – no matter where they practice. “Students will have domestic clients investing abroad. They will have foreign clients with dealings in the United States who need American lawyers who have some familiarity with the client’s home legal system, to explain American law effectively to those clients and to recognize the U.S. legal problems that can arise from the interactions of two very different legal systems.”

Case in point. A few years ago, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. sold its international tobacco business to a Japanese company. The American law firms involved in that transaction required attorneys fluent in both the Japanese legal system and in American corporate law on mergers and acquisitions.

Studying Japanese law is essential, says Feldman, because “Japan remains the world’s second largest economy and one of the United States’ most important trading partners.” Only after examining Japan’s legal system in depth, says Feldman, can students appreciate the origins and complexities of that country’s laws – a prerequisite to employment at firms with clients in the Pacific Rim. On the surface, Japan’s laws may look similar to America’s, especially since this country wrote Japan’s post-World War II Constitution, but looks can be deceiving, says Feldman.

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