Prati, a picturesque district rich in history and known for its stunning architecture, lies just north of the Vatican in central Rome. Since 1995, it’s been home to the St. John’s University Rome campus, where a group of 29 students spent four weeks this summer learning and experiencing the law in its global context through the Law School’s Rome Study Abroad Program.
“We designed this summer study abroad offering to immerse St. John’s and visiting law students in international and comparative law, emphasizing theory and practice,” says Professor Elyse Pepper, the program’s director. “Students earn six credits by taking three courses and have the opportunity to satisfy two graduation requirements: Advanced Practice Writing and Professional Responsibility.”
Benefitting from a newly revised curriculum, the students composed their summer studies by selecting from a roster of five courses:
“International Litigation in U.S. Courts was an amazing course,” says Ashland J. Bernard '20 of her experience this summer. “I intend to practice international law and wanted to take classes that were tailored specifically to foreign, international, and comparative law. I found the course particularly valuable because not only did it serve as a refresher on many topics we covered in our first year Civil Procedure course at St. John’s, but it also expanded on that curriculum by addressing topics like personal jurisdiction over foreign parties.”
In addition to learning in the classroom, the students enjoyed curated cultural expeditions that complemented each of the courses. While taking International Litigation in U.S. Courts, for example, they visited the Constitutional Court of Italy (Corte Costituzionale della Repubblica Italiana), where Justice Daria de Pretis lectured on the court’s history and operation and answered their questions. They also visited the Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione), which has its seat in the Palace of Justice (Palazzo di Giustizia), one of Rome’s iconic historical and cultural sites.
St. John’s Law alumnus Steven J. Gartner '84, co-chair of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, arranged for students in the Transnational Civil Litigation Drafting course to meet with partners from the Rome office of Studio Legale Delfino e Associati Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. The attorneys hosted an afternoon of lively conversation about the practice of law in Italy and the distinctions between U.S. and Italian law and policy.
“I enjoyed my visits to the Italian courts and law firms,” Melissa Johnson '19 says of her time in Rome. “The discussions with Italian legal practitioners were informative. For instance, I learned the differences between judge selections and terms in Italy and those in the United States, and about contract formation under Italian law.”
The students also gained practical insights from special academic events, including Pathways to Practice in Real Estate Law, a program sponsored by the Law School’s Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law featuring a discussion with alumna Angela DeMeo Works '78. Rounding out the program’s offerings were diverse social and cultural experiences, like a cooking class where the students prepared and enjoyed a traditional, three-course Italian dinner under the guidance of a professional chef. To get more of a taste of la bella vita, the students traveled in their free time throughout Italy and neighboring countries.
While the food and travel were highlights of his Rome study abroad experience, John T. (JT) Burger '20 appreciates the academic strides he made through the program: “The classes, particularly Professional Responsibility, highlighted some fascinating cultural intricacies that distinguish Italian and EU law from their American counterparts,” he shares. “Plus, the six credits I took in Rome allowed me to space out my schedule for my 2L year. Particularly, I got ahead of the curve by satisfying my Professional Responsibility requirement and taking the MPRE when I got back to New York.”
Kayla R. Dimatos '20 agrees that the Rome Study Abroad Program has benefitted her tremendously. “The courses I took in Rome allowed me to apply my foundational knowledge of the law to international legal issues,” she says. “For instance, in studying the law of art and culture, we addressed property, contract, and constitutional law issues. The experience of learning, living, and traveling abroad has inspired me to maintain an open mind to varied cultures and potential opportunities, and I will carry that inspiration with me as I continue my legal studies at St. John’s and forge my career path.