Drake Law School will host 29 Chinese law students from the Southwest University of Political Science & Law (SWUPL) as part of the first-ever Introduction to American Law and Legal System Program in September.
The students will spend four weeks learning about American law through courses taught by Drake Law faculty, which will be supplemented by activities such as touring the State Capitol Building, observing Iowa Supreme Court oral arguments, and observing a jury trial at the Polk County Courthouse.
They will also meet with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady—both graduates of Drake Law School—as well as local lawyers, judges, and state legislators.
“The program will give the SWUPL students a really solid understanding of the American legal system,” said Russell Lovell, retired professor and former associate dean at Drake Law School, who organized the visit. “They’ll have the chance to study and meet with all three branches of government: the courts, the state legislature, and the governor. We will lay the foundation of the legal institutions and show how they fit together with business and government.”
The visiting students are enrolled in one of the six law schools at SWUPL in Chongqing, the third-largest city in China. The students are juniors; in China, like many other countries, law is taught at the undergraduate as well as graduate levels. The program will allow the students to earn academic credit at SWUPL.
During their visit, the students will stay in a residence hall on campus and immerse themselves in the Des Moines experience. They will attend a Drake football game and join in activities planned by the International Law Society and the Chinese Students and Scholars Association.
In addition, the students will meet with the general counsels at three Des Moines-based businesses that have international programming in China: Kemin Industries, DuPont Pioneer, and Principal Financial Group. They will also visit the Whitfield & Eddy Law Firm and Dorsey & Whitney LLP, where the students will join a video conference with Dorsey’s China office.
“At Drake Law, we pride ourselves on our balance between theory and practice, and we have a lot of practical experiences planned that will enrich the students' visit,” Lovell said. “They’re not just going to be in classrooms, they will see law in action.”
Lovell says one of the highlights of the program is a visit to The Des Moines Register. The students will meet with the newspaper’s editors and investigative reporters, who will talk about American press and free speech during a political campaign.
“The program will cover business, law, culture, and the things that make Des Moines unique,” said Amy Johnson, a 2016 Drake Law graduate and teaching assistant in the program. “We’re trying to pack in as many of these experiences as we can.”
The program builds on a long-standing partnership between Drake and SWUPL, which is one of Drake’s 12 partner institutions in China. Students of both universities have participated in exchange programs, and several Drake Law professors have lectured at SWUPL. Drake’s president Marty Martin also visited the university during his trip to China this past spring.
The Introduction to American Law and Legal System Program will be the first to welcome a large group of SWUPL students to study at Drake.
“There are significant similarities between SWUPL and Drake Law School,” Lovell said. “We both have a reputation for graduating lawyers who really go out and practice law. Both universities also have a long-standing commitment to a balance between theory and practice. So I think these are key factors in the partnership.”
“We’re excited to welcome the students, show them Drake and the Des Moines community, and get them interested in the American legal system,” said Jerry Anderson, dean of Drake Law School. “This program will strengthen our partnership with SWUPL, and I hope this can be something we do every year.”