Teaching Law Overseas: How Feasible Is It?

Bert Maxwell's picture

It is estimated that 250,000 native English speakers teach English overseas. Teaching and travel are an appealing match, but while the majority of teachers working abroad elect to teach English, many people would prefer to remain focused on their area of expertise. One subject that this can pose a challenge in is law, given that every country has its own legal system and legal practice varies between countries. If you have a background in teaching law and trained in one of the common law countries, the easiest way to continue teaching as you travel is to travel within those countries.

Teaching Law Overseas: How Feasible Is It?

Teaching In The Common Law Countries

The US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand are considered common law countries. This means their laws are developed through the decisions of courts and judges—in essence, the legal system is defined by case law. This makes it easier to transfer your degree between these countries, something which is more difficult when legal systems are characterized by civil law. Consequently, it also makes it easier to teach using your experience, as skills and legal knowledge are more transferable. 

That said, a growing number of countries, including those that don't fall into the common law category, administer the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) for law students, and that test is standardized: it is the same in France (for example) as it is in the US. This means that preparing students to get into law school will be similar in a number of places, despite regional differences between legal systems. If you wish to travel outside of the common law countries, tutoring students for the LSAT may be a good choice.

Legal English Has Prepped You For Teaching In Other Common Law Countries

If your background is in teaching law, you already know the importance of legal English. During your training, it was essential for you to learn it from a technical point of view in order for you to perform well in your legal career and for you to pass your knowledge on to others. When you're practicing or teaching law in another country, it becomes even more important.

Linguistic differences between the US and the UK, for example, can cause confusion, but the language of law means that ambiguity can be avoided. Legal English unites those who work in the legal field in English-speaking countries, and the terminology is broadly the same. By traveling within English-speaking countries, you will have a common language with the law sector, and can confidently teach the technical language without worrying about language barriers. 

You Will Expand Your Expertise

If your aim is to continue to teach law while you travel, furthering your career may not be on your mind at the moment. However, once you return home, experience of teaching law in other countries will stand you in good stead for future career moves. All good teaching is a two-way street, with teachers learning from students and adapting to new teaching environments and practices. With law particularly, learning the differences in legal systems will serve to enrich your own knowledge, giving your CV a much more competitive edge. When you return to teach in your home country, new information you learned from operating within a different system will also deepen your teaching skills.

Teaching law overseas can seem daunting, and indeed, there are perhaps more factors to take into consideration than there are with teaching other subjects. However, particularly if you travel within the common law countries, you have transferable skills and knowledge that will be an asset to your teaching, and you will bring back experience that will make you stand out when you return.