Law and business make for good bedfellows, with each almost always relying on the other to keep things in check and succeed. And with the world becoming ever smaller, the international aspects of both law and business need to become more globalised in their outlook. Hence the introduction of our new International Business Law Master’s courses.
But what does International Business Law entail and why is it so important for law students to understand it in the modern workplace? To find out, we spoke to National Programme and Student Affairs Director Dr Leyanda Purchase.
International Business Law and, in particular, International Trade Law covers the laws and regulations which control how countries trade how businesses transact across borders. Experts in this area help create international agreements for businesses to conduct global transactions and advise and educate businesses in terms of regulatory compliance with laws on international trade. At the moment, the UK’s membership of the EU dictates many aspects of international trade for UK based businesses. With the uncertainty currently surrounding the UK’s planned departure from the EU, this is a fascinating time to be studying this subject.
At ULaw the LLM International Business Law Master’s programme is available to both law and non-law students. Many specialised areas of law are interdisciplinary, meaning that students from a wide range of backgrounds can pursue in-depth study of a range of fields. For instance, business students would be equally interested in areas such as international business law because it’s very much a valid area of study for anyone interested in business management. By widening access to our International Business Law course we are able to offer access to the same specialised areas of study to both law and non-law graduates.
Expert knowledge of international trade laws opens up a number of career paths. Of course, those that are qualified in their chosen jurisdiction will be able to develop a specialised practice in this area, advising businesses and drafting agreements. The obvious alternative is being the expert within the business itself. In companies that want to trade beyond their own borders, there is a growing demand for individuals with expert knowledge in this area to lead on contract negotiations, whether as a Commercial Director or another key role within the business. With the uncertainty currently surrounding Brexit, there are likely to be further opportunities once the future of the UK is certain, especially if that future involves leaving the EU, as all former agreements and laws will need to be rewritten.
International Trade Law is the main award-linked module. It is highly practical, focusing on international sales of goods, E-commerce, the transportation of cargo, financing, insurance and dispute resolution. Given the breadth of these areas, the module will focus on international sales law, with particular reference to the 1980 Convention on the International Sale of Goods and standard trade terms such as INCOTERMS, E-commerce – particularly the UNCITRAL Model Law on E-Commerce – harmonisation, electronic transactions and security issues. Letters of credit and choice of law are also interesting areas that we explore.
The course is a balanced blend of learning academic theory and practical application. It’s designed to equip students with a sound operational knowledge of International Business Law in today’s business world. Students are free to choose their remaining elected modules, which include International Corporate Governance, Corporate Governance and Disruptive Technology, Company Law in Practice and Corporate Governance in Practice. The courses also involve a 60 credit (15,000 word) dissertation on an aspect International Business Law, which allows for focused discussion of a particular aspect that students are interested in.
We are all affected by the way in which companies operate, including their operations internationally. Furthermore, the economic wellbeing of the UK is closely linked with the success (or otherwise) of our largest companies. The vast majority of these will be involved in complex overseas trading arrangements. Therefore, it is vital that the agreements and laws that govern this area are fair and just as the international operations of these businesses affect us all.
International Business Law and International Trade Law in particular are hugely relevant in today’s commercial environment. There is a lot of excitement at the moment in relation to international trade as a result of the current Brexit uncertainty. It impacts political decision making and can influence the way the general public vote in elections. A lot was made in the UK during the referendum and during the US elections of protecting domestic interests when it came to international trade arrangements. There is strong feeling on both sides of the debate and that’s what brings these laws to life.
If you’re considering a Master’s in international business law or international trade, my best piece of advice would be to remain flexible and open to new ideas. It is a challenging area, and one where negotiation and mediation skills will be as important as your legal knowledge, as well as an ability to think outside the box. Whether you want to practise in this area or be an in-house expert, advising on or being a part of complex transactional arrangements will be part of your day-to-day workload.