Law is undoubtedly among the world’s most prestigious professions and fields of study. Affecting everything from crime through to trade, law essentially determines how society operates and how justice is administered. Many law graduates go on to become prominent members of society – lawyers, politicians, government officials, consultants, even businesspeople. In other words, law isn’t just a call to justice – it’s a call to leadership. It’s no surprise then, that many aspiring legal students see Europe as their ultimate law study destination.
Why study law in Europe? The most important reason is also the most obvious: Europe is the birthplace of law – or at least the birthplace of the legal systems that operate in most of the world. Common law, which is used in the United States and Commonwealth countries, originated in the British Isles. Civil law, which is the system adopted by many other nations, was born on the European continent, with origins that can be traced all the way back to Roman law. It therefore makes sense that European universities boast the most familiarity and expertise of these legal systems, building on centuries of legal custom and tradition.
After all, it’s not enough just to ‘know’ the law; it’s just as important to understand how the law came to be in the first place– this is, of course, a core element of jurisprudence, so proper legal education requires a raw encounter with history – something Europe actually has in abundance. From grand cathedrals and beautiful museums to majestic courthouses, Europe tells a tale of kings and queens, uprisings and revolutions, celebration and tragedy, and above all, progress. When students get in touch with the past, they become well-equipped to chart their own futures, as well as the futures of all those around them.
Europe’s historical connections extend to their world-class universities and law firms. Some of the oldest and most prestigious law schools in the world proudly reside in Europe, attracting the top legal minds from a diverse set of nations. Throughout the years, Europe has never lost its position as the world’s central hub of legal talent and brainpower. Students get to know the globe’s best legal scholars and lawyers, and even join some of the world’s most reputed law firms, which are unsurprisingly headquartered on the continent.
But Europe isn’t just about the legal past; it’s also well on its way to shaping the legal future. Thanks, largely, to the European Union and the rapid pace of globalisation, Europe has grappled with issues such as legal integration and synchronisation, trade laws and regulations, and human rights law. These issues are hugely relevant to the future of international law and the global order. The region’s recent legal experience leaves students well-positioned to operate across national borders and diverse legal environments – a game-changer in today’s increasingly globalised and interconnected world.
Furthermore, with the advent of climate change and the global focus on sustainability, employment opportunities in the relatively new fields of environment and energy law have dramatically increased. This makes legal study in Europe even more attractive, since the continent remains the global leader in environmental standards, renewable energy and sustainability efforts. Universities in the region have accordingly established high quality LL.M. programs that hone in on these niches, allowing students take advantage of the trends and differentiate themselves from their peers.
These and other reasons make the study of law in Europe so appealing. Quite simply, no other region promises such a comprehensive, specialised, and prestigious education in law. But with thousands of law schools in Europe, prospective students really are spoilt for choice.
So here are 5 leading law schools in Europe that should be at the top of every student’s list:
UNIVERSITY OF EASTERN FINLAND, LAW SCHOOL – FINLAND
Founded in 1998, the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) Law School is renowned for its world-class and innovative legal education. As a whole, the university is placed among the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years of age in the QS World University Rankings for 2015.
Cognizant of legal trends with a strong sense of social responsibility, the UEF Law School has particularly strong programs in the realms of environmental and energy law. Students can choose to major in environmental, energy or trade law, having the opportunity to excel in multidisciplinary research and cooperate with other fields of science.
UEF Law School’s other unique, specialised programs include Master’s Degrees in Environmental Policy and Law, and in Economic and Resources Law. The School’s program portfolio is up-to-date and highly relevant, especially to students hailing from Africa, Asia and South America, where energy and environmental issues have taken centre stage in the ongoing oil and gas boom.
The School is situated in the university’s picturesque Joensuu campus, which bears the name of its home city. A metropolis of 75,000, Joensuu is a modern hub of activity that manages to uphold a tranquil atmosphere. Its breathtakingly beautiful scenery and unspoilt lakes and rivers offer endless opportunities for sports and recreation.
VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT BRUSSEL, INSTITUTE FOR EUROPEAN STUDIES – BELGIUM
Located at Vrije Universiteit Brussel’s (VUB) campus, the Institute for European Studies (IES) provides exceptional education in both European and international law. Its proximity to major European Union institutions, NATO headquarters, prestigious think tanks and law firms mean that students can gain insight from experts and network with potential employers. IES offers an LL.M. in International and European Law that is renowned for its outstanding quality and international character. Students receive instruction from an impressive mixture of famous EU scholars, top-level EU practitioners and practicing lawyers in a supportive setting.
UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN, FACULTY OF LAW – DENMARK
Established in 1479, the University of Copenhagen is a well-respected institution that has produced no less than eight Nobel Prize winners. The University’s Faculty of Law has over 4,000 students and is the largest of Denmark’s four law schools. The School offers an LL.M. program that allows for a great deal of flexibility and choice of subjects, and also places strong emphasis on analytical and critical thinking. The lively campus is conveniently situated in the city centre, allowing for easy access to a thriving, cosmopolitan environment. Additionally, students get to experience one of the world’s cleanest, safest and most liveable cities.
TILBURG UNIVERSITY, LAW SCHOOL – THE NETHERLANDS
Established in 1963, Tilburg Law School, a component of Tilburg University, is one of the leading law schools in the Netherlands and Europe. The School is frequently praised for the quality of its staff; the structure, variety, and depth of its programs; its informal classroom setting, and its quality of support facilities. The School offers six English-taught Master’s programs, ranging from International Business Law to Law and Technology. The University as a whole is very diverse, hosting more than 750 international students from over 60 countries. Tilburg itself is the Netherlands’ sixth largest city and has a thriving social and cultural scene. The School is strategically located between major cities like Amsterdam, Brussels and Frankfurt, making it the perfect launch pad for adventure.
UNIVERSITY OF ZURICH, FACULTY OF LAW – SWITZERLAND
The University of Zurich (UZH) is Switzerland’s largest university. A highly respected institution, twelve of its scholars have been awarded the Nobel Prize. The University’s Faculty of Law is particularly well-regarded, having over 200 years of experience. It offers a range of programs, including an LL.M. in International Banking and Finance Law, and a LL.M. in International Sports Law. Students can look forward to being instructed by an international team of lecturers who are dedicated to subject matter that is not limited to national issues, but covers a growing and ever-changing body of international law.