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William & Mary Law Student Finds Philosophical Quest and Practical
Skills in Spain
[by Erica Winter]
What can U.S. lawyers learn from European lawyers? And how can U.S. law beneﬁt from European law? Stephanie Spirer is a good example of an answer to
the former question, and she is currently working on the answer to the latter.
Spirer is a second-year law student at Wil- both sides to come to a “cross-cultural” un- have examined international opinions on the
liam & Mary’s Marshall-Wythe School of derstanding. This also applies in court cases, practice, for example. And, there currently is
Law, Williamsburg, VA. She spent part of the says Spirer, when lawyers need to under- a proposed resolution before the U.S. House
summer of 2004 in Madrid, Spain, on William stand the other side’s perspective. of Representatives seeking to prevent U.S.
& Mary’s study abroad program there. The courts from considering foreign court deci-
Madrid program “really enriched my legal On a philosophical level, Spirer saw the sions when making their own rulings.
education,” says Spirer. difference in how Spaniards see Americans
and how Americans see ourselves, including The side supporting the resolution says
A Spanish and political science double opinions on the then-upcoming U.S. elec- that the U.S. should not be bound by foreign
major, Spirer did not have the chance to tions. Arriving in Spain soon after the March laws and rulings, explains Spirer. The side
study abroad while an undergraduate at Ohio 11 train bombings, Spirer and fellow pro- opposing it says that U.S. courts would not
Northern University (class of 2003). Spirer gram participants saw the need for nations to be bound by foreign judicial rulings and
jumped at the chance to study in Spain while support each other in the face of tragedy, she laws by considering them but rather that the
in law school, even though her legal career says. Having political discussions with Span- comparison of ideas that may be succeeding
focus is towards domestic politics and gov- ish people showed her how connected the elsewhere could aide in decisions here.
ernment relations, not international law. world is and how important it is to facilitate
dialogue among people internationally. With many law schools’ international
This coming summer, Spirer will work at the programs accepting students from other
Indianapolis firm of Baker & Daniels, which Contemplating these ideas in the context of schools, Spirer originally chose the William
has a strong government relations group. her legal studies lead Spirer to her journal & Mary Madrid program specifically because
Spirer will do general work at the firm. And note topic. Spirer, a member of William & of the ease of transferring credits and
in the fall 2005 semester, Spirer will do an Mary’s Bill of Rights Journal, is examin- because of the faculty. Overall, “I was really
externship with the Virginia State Legisla- ing whether or not the U.S. Supreme Court impressed with the professors,” she says.
ture. should look at foreign court decisions in its
own decision-making process. Students in the program provided an “inter-
Studying in Spain could benefit someone esting perspective,” Spirer says, because
working in a legal career or in the U.S. As part of the note, Spirer is looking at Fed- they were not only studying in Spain, but also
government on a practical level, Spirer said. eralism through a comparison of the 22nd being taught by Spanish professors (in Eng-
It is as simple as communicating between Amendment to the Constitution (repealing lish). As yet another cross-cultural benefit of
different cultures. Spirer’s Spanish friends Prohibition) and a 1978 case that went before the program, one of the eight Spanish faculty
told her that their opinions of Americans the European Court of Justice. She is looking members in the program, Professor José M.
changed by meeting her, as did her perspec- at whether this comparison can help us bet- de Areilza, will come to William & Mary next
tive change by meeting them. ter understand our own federalism. spring to teach European Union Constitu-
The skill of communicating with those who Considering foreign court decisions is a hotly
think differently can be carried into both debated question now, says Spirer, and not Having advised the Spanish government
political and legal career life. Two sides of only in the realm of international relations. during the development of the European
a contested political issue can only come to Questions involving the death penalty for ju- Constitution, Professor de Areilza, Academic
an understanding when an effort is made by veniles, which is still allowed in some states, Co-Director of the William & Mary Madrid
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SKILL SHARPENER 1.800. 973. 1177
program and Professor of European Union
Law and Vice-Dean of Legal Studies at the
Instituto de Empresa in Madrid, is an expert
on the European Union’s new Constitution.
In addition, he was an advisor to the Span-
ish Prime Minister on European and North
American Affairs and teaches law in Poland.
As for how students relate to him, Spirer
sums it up, “He was such a great professor.”
Not surprisingly, she plans to take his course