UMass Law UMass Law: UMass Law students gain global perspective in Lisbon

UMass Law UMass Law: UMass Law students gain global perspective in Lisbon
UMass Law students gain global perspective in Lisbon

Comparative law & cultural immersion shapes future lawyers

Ten UMass Law students and Professor Richard Peltz-Steele pose by the Universidade Católica Portugues campus logo.
Ten UMass Law students and Professor Richard Peltz-Steele pose by the Universidade Católica Portugues campus logo.

UMass Dartmouth School of Law students recently completed a two-week trip to Portugal for their study abroad program in partnership with the Católica School of Law in Lisbon.

"I think overall, it could not have gone any better," UMass Law's Dean Sam Panarella described.

Coursework on data privacy

The 10 law students, accompanied by Dean Panarella and Chancellor Professor Richard Peltz-Steele, completed a two-credit course on comparative law, while also navigating historical and legal sites in Lisbon. The course was co-taught by Professor Peltz-Steele and professors from the Católica School of Law in Lisbon and focused on data privacy.

Paul Riley, JD candidate '26 described the rewarding lectures, "We had the privilege of bringing Professor Peltz over with us, he is amazing. We also spoke with 5 different professors from Católica, and they were wonderful. I think it makes us all better students now having such different perspectives."

Corie Scott, JD candidate '26 described her experience in the course as life-changing.

"I came back from Portugal knowing exactly what I want to do. The topic just grabbed me," she explained. "When I started my internship after the trip, the first assignment that I was given dealt with a problem of understanding data privacy framework. It has launched my career."

Cultural immersion

Outside of the classroom, students visited many different historical and legal sites around Lisbon, including sites within Belém, Cascais, Sintra, and Sesimbra.

"The cultural immersion made the program," Scott mentioned. "I had to understand Portugal as a country. It just makes a difference. To see the monuments and why the monuments were erected, and to learn the history of what they went through, made all the lectures, academics, and whole experience mesh so well."

"It was an opportunity to sightsee and also gain a deeper appreciation," Riley said. "You're seeing the sights and you're being instructed upon their significance. It's otherworldly, you're essentially living and standing in these places with the history you are learning so much about."

"The trip gives you a totally different perspective on law," added Tamar Shimon, JD candidate '26. "They took the time to teach us a lot of historical background, making the academics so engaging and valuable for us. It's important to have these experiences to grow as a student and as a person."

UMass Law students pictured at the Belém Tower in Lisbon, Portugal.
UMass Law students pictured at the Belém Tower in Lisbon, Portugal.

Constitutional Court visit

One experience throughout their time in Lisbon really stood out to students.

"We had an opportunity to go to Portugal's Constitutional Court, which is the highest court in the country," Riley explained. "It's their apex court, and their system is basically analogous to the Supreme Court here in the United States."

At the Constitutional Court in Lisbon, they received a personal two-hour lecture in the chambers by Vice-President Gonçalo de Almeida Ribeiro, that students and Dean Panarella say was truly special. 

"It's not a building that everyone gets to go to," Dean Panarella mentioned. "To be able to have one of the sitting justices of Portugal's Constitutional Law Court spend two hours with us was something special."

"Vice President Gonçalo de Almeida Ribeiro took us right to his office during a break and showed us a view from his window," Riley mentioned. "The second most powerful judge in the country, and he was so gracious with his time."

Along with being a fantastic host, Vice-President Ribeiro had some incredible talking points within his lecture.

"Learning about that process in the chambers of the Constitutional Court was so impactful," Scott said. "It was incredible being in that environment, like being immersed in the history and culture of Portugal while learning about their constitution, which is only 50 years old and still so full of information and background."

Future plans

Dean Panarella plans to continue this study abroad going forward and hopes to eventually expand to other countries.

"We will do this program with Católica every year," he mentioned. "The topic will change. And then, my hope is to create more programs as an addition to this, to have other comparative law study aboard opportunities."

"I think one of the most formative experiences that a law student can have is viewing principles of governance through a lens that's not the United States," Scott said, "There's so much value in a different perspective."

"For law students, the opportunity to expand your horizons in this way, while also seeing a part in the world that you might not have an opportunity to see otherwise, is irreplaceable," Riley agreed.

The comparative law program is open for any law student, as long as they are not graduating before the start of the trip. For more information, visit the comparative law program page.

This story was written by Shailyn Bacchiocchi '23, '25, master of professional writing student and communications graduate assistant.