Global Lawyering Field Study Explores Natural Resource Management, Dispute Resolution in Scotland

July 27, 2018

Scotland Aberdeen UniversityTexas A&M School of Law students (here with faculty from the University of Aberdeen School of Law), led by Professors Randy Gordon and Guillermo Garcia Sanchez, experience global lawyering, exploring comparative law, oil & gas law, and international arbitration in the Global Programs Field Study course "Scotland: Natural Resource Management and Dispute Resolution."

The Texas A&M University School of Law Global Programs field studies transport law students to regions where legal issues collide with unique, dynamic realities, offering direct engagement and hands-on lessons not possible through textbooks. Each summer and spring break, the School of Law offers its students the opportunity to travel with their professors outside of the United States to experience global lawyering firsthand in the field.

This summer, A&M law students enjoyed the opportunity to explore dispute resolution and natural resources management issues in Israel ​and Scotland.

Randy Gordon and Guillermo GarciaIn Scotland, the Global Lawyering Field Study: Natural Resource Management and Dispute Resolution was led by Executive Professor Randy Gordon, who earned one of his doctoral degrees from Scotland’s famed Edinburgh University, and Associate Professor Guillermo Garcia Sanchez, an arbitration and international petroleum transactions scholar.

SCOTLAND: Natural Resource Management and Dispute Resolution

Students visiting Scotland gained a unique perspective on a region with a fascinating legal history and culture as well as ultramodern political, social and environmental issues.

Scotland high courtOutside Scotland's High Court, located in Edinburgh

Gordon said the experience was educational and refreshing. “In my view, the inaugural field study to Scotland could not have gone better. We had a group of engaged and collaborative students, our presenters were engaging across a wide range of issues, and the Scottish weather cooperated.”

Garcia shared the same sentiments. “The Scotland global trip to Aberdeen was a fantastic opportunity for students to witness firsthand the world of international oil and gas law. The trip not only allowed our students to learn about international petroleum transactions and compare the U.K. legal system with the U.S. but also to meet with practitioners, advocates to the High Court, and the overall legal community in Scotland,” he said.

Scotland Aberdeen Univ LawAt the University of Aberdeen with Rona Jamieson and Lynne Gray from Burness Paull ​LLP sharing their expertise on offshore safety, environmental standards and compliance with the Texas A&M Law students. The​y also ​examine the differences in application between the U.K. Bribery Act and the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“Aggie students even attended a hearing in Edinburgh, interviewed police officers, and had a private tour of one of the oldest courthouses in the world. All of these unique experiences while researching and lodging in the fifth oldest university in the U.K., The University of Aberdeen (1495),” continued Garcia.

scotland courtroomAggie Law students experiencing firsthand a courtroom in Scotland's High Court.

3L Kristin Bussell Newby was thrilled about the field study in Scotland. 

“I left my former career in the wine industry to attend law school because of my interest in environmental and natural resources law. As one who loves to travel and experience foreign cultures, this trip appealed to me as an opportunity to do exactly that while also researching legal issues pertinent to natural resources,” she said.  

Traveling to Scotland allowed law students to obtain a greater insight into Scotland’s laws and culture. Because Scots law is a case-study in legal complexity, with its roots, traditions, current legal and political structures, and evolving national and international issues, it offered a rare insight into how a legal system adapts when it must. Adding to that mix are European Union regulations and maritime laws and rules.

Scotland classroomDr. Andrew Simpson, Senior Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen School of Law, presents an introduction to Scottish law, discussing Scottish legislation and legal institutions.

Many law students, like Newby, were shocked at how different Scots law and United Kingdom laws were from those in the United States. 

“There is no written constitution!” said Newby. “The laws are more common law and less black-letter-law-based than our system. Scots law also seems to — at different times — either directly mirror or starkly contrast English law.” 

Newby said she was heading to Scotland to absorb what this experience had to offer. “I expected to learn about international treaties related to offshore drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea,” she said. 

“I envisioned this learning process wasn’t really concrete,” said Newby. “I did expect to visit with practicing attorneys in Scotland, which we did, and I did expect to collaborate and get to know my peers better, which I also did, but other than that, I had no real strict expectations.”

“I quite liked having open-minded expectations, and I think most of our group did and that it served us well in talking with Scottish attorneys about a broad range of topics related to Scots law,” continued Newby.

Scotland BrexitBurness Paull LLP hosts a series of lectures offering a comparative perspective on how law is practiced in Scotland and the U.K. Topics include oil & gas law, environmental compliance, Scottish v. English litigation, doing business in Scotland, and B​rexit.

2L John Thomas had looked forward to learning about the legal environment in Scotland and how it applied internationally.

“I was interested in traveling and learning about the course material. I learned about the different legal systems and the context in which they practice,” said Thomas. He also said this trip to Scotland allowed him to explore the possibility of practicing law globally.

Likewise, many law students participating in the field study said the trip allowed them to contemplate their future careers in law. Because of the wide variety of current legal issues facing Scotland, there were many leads to follow. The experience helped the students narrow down their future practice area interests.

“I have discovered that while my interest in natural resources is strong, it is more particularly tailored to the food and beverage industry and not so broadly related to all natural resources,” explained Newby. “I am more interested in the natural resources of water and land as related to the agricultural and food/beverage industries and less interested in the oil and gas or energy industries.”

Scotland burnessPaull LLPAggie Law students with associates from Burness Paull LLP discussing property law in Scotland and its impact for the energy industry.

3L Keeli Lane said she was initially interested in the global law but is now excited about exploring other areas of law. 

“I have a continued interest to experience as many areas of the law as possible during my time in law school. I had not worked in oil and gas [law], and as it is a very large legal market, especially in Texas, I knew it would be a very interesting and educational experience,” said Lane. 

Lane said she was optimistic even before traveling to Scotland and had high expectations for the overall legal experience.

Scotland Parliament HouseThe students tour Parliament House, the home of the Supreme Courts in Scotland, situated in the heart of a World Heritage site in central Edinburgh.

“The educational aspects, the professors, the other students, and the sightseeing blew my expectations out of the water.” 

This Global Lawyering Field Study did exactly what Texas A&M School of Law faculty had envisioned:  provide law students with all the legal resources needed, locally and internationally, to become the best lawyers.  

“After the trip, our students will be able to advise better their [future] clients about the challenges faced by international oil companies in the North Sea and how these differ from the opportunities offered in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Garcia. “I am confident that the Scotland trip was a unique experience that will allow Aggie Law professionals to become top international legal practitioners.”

Scotland oil and gas lectureThe Texas A&M Global Programs Field Study students ​learn about transboundary hydrocarbon resources in the North Sea and the type of legal institutions that regulate their exploration and the dispute resolution involved in managing international petroleum transactions. Here, at the University of Aberdeen School of Law, comparing U.S. and U.K. oil and gas law with Burness Paull partners.
Scotland Dunnottar Castle
Scotland Donattor Castle gigem The Aggie Law students also had the opportunity to experience for themselves Scotland's rich history and culture; here, exploring Dunnottar Castle perched on cliffs high above the North Sea.
Scotland Castle



Article by Tyra Kelly, Texas A&M University School of Law.
Photos courtesy of the faculty and students participating in the Scotland field study.