By: Terry Ahtziry Cardenas Banda, lawyer and former professor.
In life one of my greatest passions is the law, as a Mexican lawyer and living the greater part of my life in a city neighboring the United States, it rise on me the interest about knowing and understanding the American legal system, and since I have dual nationality, I considered it my right and duty. That is why I undertook the task of studying law in the United States, continuing my postgraduate studies at the University of San Diego in the LLM program of Comparative Law with concentration in International Law.
My journey as a law student in the United States was extremely different from the one I once had as a law student in Mexico. From the first days of school they are promoted activities to meet lawyers in different areas of law and generally from the early years of law school they encourage the students to start working to become familiar with the labor world.
In the classrooms I lived experiences like no other, the educational method is very different from the one we use in Mexico and in other countries in which I have studied. Teachers handle the Socratic method, which consists of the interaction between the teacher and the student through constant questions and answers, forcing the student to be attentive, active and prepared at all times for the class. Another aspect that I could observe from the first moment is that the students from the first day of class begin to prepare their outlines.
The law student in the United States is constantly studying, the assignments are usually vast readings that will be discussed in class and regularly they are readings of decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States or the different State courts. One of the most important aspects I have found is that the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States have great weight in the US legal system, the judge made the law.
The Supreme Court has a significant role in the US legal system, because its decisions are the ones that decide the course of the country. The US Constitution is concrete and short, but yet it can be ambiguous, that’s when the Supreme Court appears because is the one designated to interpret and decide on issues that the Constitution has no clear definition. Likewise, the Supreme Court interprets and decides the constitutionality of various laws enacted by Congress or state legislatures. Also the states have their own sovereignty and broad jurisdiction to legislate on all matters other than federal issues. The differences I had found from the Mexican system and the US system are vast, they go from how to exercise the law to the process to follow to become a lawyer.
The life of a law student in the United States as a Mexican lawyer was extremely enriching since both the legal and educational systems are quite different, out underestimating any system, each one has its advantages and disadvantages, and each one have experienced different historical changes that have define them.
It is encouraging to recognize that law in the United States is a profession that is highly valued and recognized by all. Law students from the first moment they enter law school are already thinking as future lawyers and must act as such, respecting and following the guidelines of professional responsibility, they should be prepared not only to take the examination of the State Bar where they wish to practice law but also in the examination of professional responsibility. I feel that the fact they encourage their students to recognize the work of the lawyer and their model rules and guidelines is something to learn from the US system because it does not seek just to regulate the profession but to protect the interests of the most vulnerable and especially that the lawyer at all times do his work with integrity, ethics and professionalism.
It is always rewarding and enriching to know the aspects of other countries, their education methods and the way they enforce the law, this program has allowed me to know not only the US system but other countries systems too. I have had the opportunity to share with lawyers from other countries my experiences as a Mexican lawyer, and at the same time I have learn about the experiences of lawyers of different countries, through the sharing of experiences you value the benefits of your legal system but at the same time you are looking to find solutions to the deficiencies you find in the legal system of your country and as a lawyer. Such sharing of experiences has helped me recognize the way different legal and education systems work, at the same time it helped me recognize that some systems resemble to the American and others to the Mexican, but in the end each system has its particular characteristics that defines their country.