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Published: Friday, 7/27/2007

Foreign students in UT program shadow lawyers

BY MAGGIE REID
BLADE STAFF WRITER
University of Szeged law students help themselves to souvenirs during their visit to the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office. University of Szeged law students help themselves to souvenirs during their visit to the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office.
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When Melinda Lnczi began studying law at the University of Szeged, Hungary, she hoped she would have the opportunity to visit the United States and observe its legal system firsthand.

Two years later, she got her wish.

As part of The University of Toledo college of law's partnership with the University of Szeged law department, Ms. Lnczi and six other Szeged law students and recent graduates have come to Toledo for four weeks to experience U.S. life and its laws.

The members of the delegation, who arrived in Toledo July 7, are completing internships in four legal settings, spending each week shadowing lawyers at different levels of the government as well as private firms.

Student Agnes Keszi gets a good-bye hug from Lynn Jacobs, assistant prosecutor, while Melinda Lanczi looks on. Student Agnes Keszi gets a good-bye hug from Lynn Jacobs, assistant prosecutor, while Melinda Lanczi looks on.
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This is the first time Szeged law students have come to study through the two universities' partnership.

The first week was spent observing hearings and meeting with the judges at U.S. District

Court in Toledo, followed by a week at Lucas County Common Pleas Court, where the students sat in on a murder trial.

This week, the students are interning at the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office. During the final week, each student will be sent to shadow lawyers at local private law offices.

The UT law school also has provided activities for after-work hours, including a Toledo Mud Hens game, visits with area politicians, and many dinners at local restaurants and professors' houses.

Hungarian law students, from left, Agnes Keszi, Szabolcs Szendr , and Vera Jegesy share a laugh when Agnes  umbrella malfunctions in front of the Lucas County Courthouse.
Hungarian law students, from left, Agnes Keszi, Szabolcs Szendr , and Vera Jegesy share a laugh when Agnes umbrella malfunctions in front of the Lucas County Courthouse.
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Daniel Steinbock, UT law school professor and associate dean for academic affairs, said it is important for the students to understand foreign law in order to operate in a globalized world.

He said the University of Szeged also offers programs in French and German law.

"They wanted to get practical exposure to actual practice of American law," Mr. Steinbock said.

The practical exposure is key to understanding another legal system, the students said.

After studying American law for two years at the University of Szeged, the students laughed about how they are considered "American legal experts" in Hungary.

But now that they have been in Toledo for a few weeks, they said they have a much more realistic view of their expertise.

There are certain glaring differences between the two national legal systems that make it difficult to understand foreign law without actually traveling and practicing it, they said.

"For example, we don't have jury trials or capital punishment back home," Szabolcs Szendr, the only male student among the seven, said.

Observing the murder trial last week was especially interesting and eye-opening, he added.

The students' exposure to this foreign legal system seems to be whetting their appetite, and most expressed hopes of returning to America to practice law someday. However, they said certain obstacles stand in the way.

Rka Valastyn said both the American school system and legal system make it difficult for foreign lawyers to transition smoothly.

They said those difficulties make this program even more valuable because it offers an opportunity to observe and participate in American law that is difficult to come by without the help of the universities.

Although the students said the program has been instrumental in supplementing their American law education, Mr. Steinbock said he is not sure if the program will happen again because it depends entirely on the demand from Szeged students, who must pay for all expenses themselves, including travel, room, and board.

"Because this program is self-financed, it remains to be seen if there will be enough interest to run it again," Mr. Steinbock said.

But the partnership between UT College of Law and the University of Szeged will continue.

Since 2005, eight UT law school professors have traveled to Hungary to teach short courses on American law, each in their areas of expertise.

Contact Maggie Reid at:

mreid@theblade.com or

419-724-6050.



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