Exchange Program Semester Abroad:
Sciences Po Law School, France
Nash spent the fall semester of his 3L year in Paris, studying at the faculty of law of the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, known as “Sciences Po.”
Why did you decide to study abroad?
My interest in international arbitration began in my 2L year, when I took a course in international investment arbitration with Yas Banifatemi, a visiting lecturer on law. The class introduced me to the work of Professor Emmanuel Gaillard, a foundational thinker in the field, who conducted research and taught at Sciences Po for nearly a decade. When I looked into spending a semester there, I saw that the school offered a large number of classes on this topic. I wanted to interact with other distinguished professors on the faculty, studying subjects that would be beneficial to my goal of practicing international arbitration. I also hoped that my time in Paris would provide me new frameworks for thinking about international law, complementing the experience I’ve gained by working in international finance in London and Hong Kong and studying at HLS.
How did you prepare?
Before law school, I worked in international finance for four years, first in Hong Kong and then in London, and could bring my experience with the intricacies of cross-border financial trading to my coursework at Sciences Po. Before my semester abroad, I took other relevant courses, including Corporations, Securities Regulation, and Professor Mark Wu’s seminar on China and the International Legal Order.
I did not have strong French language skills, so it was fortunate that I could take courses in English. I organized some private tutoring in French before I left for Paris, and used some of the cross-registration credits permitted by HLS to take a French language class at Sciences Po. My elementary French helped me work with the Sciences Po administration and meet some new French-speaking friends outside of school.
What courses did you take at Sciences Po?
My courses included lectures on International Commercial Arbitration, General International Public Law, International Economic Law, and AI and Data Governance Law, and a seminar on Law and Revolution, which explored different ideological takes on political revolutions, their merits and their drawbacks.
My professors were engaging lecturers with varied and fascinating experience in their fields, and they offered very different, non-U.S.-centric perspectives on the material. For example, Professor Diego Fernández Arroyo, who taught International Commercial Arbitration, focused on the theoretical underpinnings of what makes international arbitration work. International Economic Law was probably my favorite class; we discussed a smorgasbord of topics, from the World Trade Organization to states’ non-economic objectives, with Professor Régis Bismuth, who offered a very French perspective on international law. The class raised some profound questions about why states may participate (or not) in the international legal regime and whether the regime is capable of responding to contemporary concerns from state parties. And AI and Data Governance was particularly interesting because of how new many of the legal issues are. Professor Beatriz Botero Arcila, who earned her S.J.D. at HLS, helped me engage with some of the moral and social issues underpinning technology regulation, and the reasons why American law in this area is relatively underdeveloped compared to its European counterparts.
Sciences Po also offers mini-seminars, or ateliers, on a variety of interesting topics. I was able to enroll in one on Advocacy in International Arbitration, taught by the head of the Paris office of the firm where I will be working after graduation.
How was the experience?
The mode of instruction at Sciences Po is markedly different from that at HLS. Professors employ a lecture format (instead of the Socratic method) that I found quite helpful in going through the more difficult parts of the doctrine, and then focus class discussions around debating challenges in the existing legal framework. My International Commercial Arbitration class included a field trip to the International Chamber of Commerce, where we were able to discuss how they supervise arbitration between parties from different countries — something that could only happen because we were in Paris.
Sciences Po has a remarkably diverse student body, in terms of country of origin or nationality. It was easy to make friends and study partners from all across the globe, and this open and welcoming culture enhanced my academic experience as well. In my General Public International Law class, for example, Professor Makane Mbengue did a wonderful job of facilitating a discussion with Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese students on the contentious subject of statehood as a legal concept. Understanding the highly personal implications of this topic made the law’s impact much more concrete.
Grading systems include papers, written exams, or a 20-minute oral exam. These one-on-one dialogues with a professor led me to prepare in a different way, and I appreciated being able to engage in some healthy debate during the exams themselves. A fair warning to HLS students, though — open book exams are unheard of in France!
How will the semester abroad fit in with your career plans?
I am joining the Los Angeles office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, an international litigation and arbitration firm.
All told, I got exactly what I wanted out of my study abroad experience: an extremely thorough exploration of international arbitration and international economic law; a uniquely European perspective on the legal order; and a challenging academic environment that has left me better prepared for my work as a litigator.
Before my semester abroad, I had not really considered Europe as a career destination, but after my term at Sciences Po, I’m considering a future career in Paris!