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New York, March 1, 2010—Long considered a pioneer in transnational and business law, Columbia Law School recently partnered with the University of Oxford to create a competitive and highly specialized educational opportunity to study law and finance at the renowned British institution.
The Columbia-Oxford Alliance in Law and Finance, slated to start in 2011, is the latest addition to the Global Alliance Program, where the Law School has already partnered with prestigious universities in Paris and Amsterdam to offer an enhanced study-abroad experience.
“We wanted to create a highly structured, organized program for those students interested in focusing their legal studies on a very specific field of law while experiencing life in a foreign country,” said George A. Bermann
, the Jean Monnet Professor in EU Law, and the Walter Gellhorn Professor of Law.
The Oxford alliance, reserved exclusively for third-year students, will be highly competitive, Bermann noted, with only five openings available each year. Participants will be selected based on their level of interest, grasp of quantitative business law concepts, and completion of four prerequisite courses—Corporations, Mergers & Acquisitions, Securities Regulation, and Corporate Finance.
“Oxford fits into the Global Alliance’s overall approach of giving students the chance to maximize their Law School experience with study at other preeminent institutions,” said Brian N. Gibson, the assistant dean for comparative and international programs at the Law School. “We’re building strength on strength.”
At Oxford, the academic year is divided into three terms, so participating students will spend January through March taking rigorous courses offered through Oxford’s Masters in Law and Finance curriculum. Once that term ends, students may have the opportunity to apply for externships at firms and organizations in and around London.
The alliance will also provide Oxford graduate students the chance to audit Law School courses and conduct research under the guidance of faculty members. Merritt B. Fox, the Michael E. Patterson Professor of Law and the Nasdaq Professor for Law and Economics of Capital Markets, will serve as Columbia’s academic director of the program.
Faculty members will also participate in an exchange that will allow each institution to benefit from interactions with scholars on the other side of the Atlantic. This spring, Jeffrey Gordon
, the Alfred W. Bressler Professor of Law, will co-teach two courses at Oxford and lead discussions related to global markets. At the same time, an Oxford professor will teach or co-teach a seminar-style comparative corporate governance or corporate/securities theory course at the Law School during the 2010 fall semester.
According to Oxford Professor John Armour, the quality of the Law School faculty is one reason Oxford was interested in forming this alliance.
“The business law faculty at Columbia is one of, if not the strongest, groups in the world,” said Armour, the Lovells Professor of Law and Finance at Oxford and a visiting professor at the Law School last fall. “We think it’s fantastic to be able to partner with that wonderful group.”
The Paris program, now in its second year, joins students from the Law School with peers from University of Paris 1 and Science Po for the entire academic year. They follow a common curriculum in New York in the fall, before spending the spring semester together in Paris.
The challenging menu of courses, taught entirely in English, centers on the study of global business law and governance, and includes Comparative Labor Law, Law of the WTO, and Intellectual Property in a Global Perspective. Special workshops and events, as well as distinguished guest speakers, promote experiential learning and exposure to the international legal environment.
At the end of the program, students receive a joint Certificate in Global Business Law and Governance from the three schools.
“My Global Alliance experience was a breath of fresh air into my overall Law School education,” said Anna Dupont’09, who participated in the Paris alliance’s inaugural year. “It offered me an opportunity to balance both a rigorous Columbia Law School–based course load and a fascinating international academic experience.”
Dupont now uses that experience in her work as a capital markets associate in the London office of White & Case. “Besides the content of the courses, which continues to serve me well in my job,” she said, “getting a taste of what it means to be a lawyer in another jurisdiction is an experience that is both philosophically useful and practically applicable going forward in my legal practice.”
After reviewing the performance of last year’s participants, Bermann noted the Paris alliance “is very, very effective” in preparing students for international practice. Students seem to agree. Bermann, who has been involved with the program since its inception, called this year’s student interest “extraordinary.”
In addition to Oxford and Paris, the global alliance in Amsterdam offers a specified course of study in international criminal law. Students spend the entire academic year together, first at the Law School, then at the University of Amsterdam Law School. Participants receive an LL.M. in International Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam, as well as a Columbia J.D.
Bermann hopes to continue expanding the Law School’s network of institutional partnerships, with Hong Kong as one potential site for a new global alliance. “When I came here 35 years ago,” he recalled, “we had only one international law course.”
Now, Bermann and his colleagues intend to make the Law School’s reach in public and private international virtually boundless.
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