It is 56 degrees in February. The sun is shining over the water and the hustle and bustle of morning traffic is just kicking in. As I walk to my externship, I pass cafes buzzing from the morning rush, the smell of pastries and coffee wafting through the air. Where am I? Not Boston (56 degrees should have given that away). I am in Dublin, Ireland along with five other students taking part in Boston College’s Semester-in-Practice program.
So, what drew me to this program? Take one round of law school exams and you will see the appeal of externships. But in all seriousness, how could I pass up the opportunity to spend a semester living and working in Europe? Maybe I’m just the product of the Covid era – itching to get in the study abroad experience that was swept out from under me. Yet, I find it more likely that I was drawn in by the opportunities this program presents.
For starters, it may be the only time in my life I can definitively carve out a couple of months to live abroad. Considering the nature of an American law degree and other commitments that come along with growing up and joining the workforce, I cannot guarantee that I can upend my life and move to another country later in my career. As far as I am aware, PTO has its limits.
Beyond the perfect timing, I believe I can leverage this experience to gain access to more international opportunities in the future. I will have experience living and working abroad while learning two new legal systems: Irish and EU. This not only signals a willingness to work internationally or with international clients but shows the ability to do so. With an increased presence of worldwide law firms, nonprofits, and other organizations, I believe this experience will be invaluable to leverage throughout my career.
This semester I am externing at Mercy Law Resource Centre, an independent law center and charity providing free legal advice and representation to those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Ireland, like many other countries, is currently experiencing a housing crisis in which there is a low supply of homes and rapidly increasing rent prices. As a result, many people are being pushed out of the housing market altogether. I get to meet with these people through Mercy Law’s free legal clinics and work on their cases. This entails writing letters to the local housing authority, drafting complaints to government oversight bodies and interacting directly with government agents. Through this work, I get to see people in extremely poor situations find housing or move into more suitable housing. Being able to help people in the Dublin community is by far the most rewarding part of my job.
That being said, this program isn’t all work and no play. On the weekends we embrace Irish pub culture and take advantage of the cheap airfare. So far students have been to England, France and Italy with Switzerland, Belgium, and Scotland on deck. Clearly, this is not your average law school semester.
Dublin also has so much to offer. It is a very walkable city, making sightseeing easy and accessible. Whether you’re shopping on Grafton Street, walking through Trinity or admiring St. Patrick’s cathedral, there is so much to do right here in Dublin. Plus, unlike most major cities, the bus system runs routes over an hour outside of the city. For a couple of euro, you can take day trips to Howth, Wicklow and Bray or hop on the Irish rail system for longer trips to Belfast, Cork, and Galway. Naturally, we’re never bored.
Coming to Dublin was not a hard decision to make. It’s a chance to fully immerse yourself into another culture and see the world while getting law school credit. If you feel bogged down by reading cases or writing memos, consider coming to Dublin and experience all the fun for yourself.
Katie Cross is a second-year student at BC Law, studying in our Semester-in-Practice: Dublin Program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.