In an increasingly globalised world, legal processes are becoming more sophisticated. Practitioners hoping to secure positions with top law firms must therefore broaden their horizons and equip themselves with a global perspective.
"Graduates or working professionals considering further studies should look at teaching quality when selecting a programme," says Lin Feng, associate professor, school of law, City University of Hong Kong (CityU). The school offers a master of laws (LLM) programme for students who already have a legal background and want to enhance their professional skills, knowledge and career focus.
"Our aim is to offer courses that are on a par with those offered by other leading international law schools," says Dr Lin, adding that the school's teaching staff include academics from renowned institutions such as Columbia University in New York and the University of Oxford in the UK.
"Legal professionals should be aware of global practices and standards, and we offer our students the opportunity to learn from top international specialists," he adds.
The CityU law school recently invested in some brand new, high-tech facilities, including high-quality, real-time video links that allow students to follow lectures. This enables overseas law specialists to deliver lectures to students based in Hong Kong without having to travel to the city.
The video-link technology also enables lecturing staff based in Hong Kong to participate in the classes actively. This is particularly helpful, since local lecturers have a good understanding of students' backgrounds and can therefore help explain complex concepts to them.
The students, on the other hand, benefit from after-class discussions and tutorials, while lecturers get the opportunity to interact with other law experts, thereby enhancing their own teaching skills.
The LLM students are encouraged to interact with their classmates, a diverse student body that includes law students, attorneys, corporate executives and other professionals with a range of law-related backgrounds. The programme has also attracted a fair number of law graduates from overseas universities.
As the programme is offered in partnership with foreign universities, the school has a global alumni network. It also has an exclusive agreement with the Supreme People's Court of China and National Judges College to provide advanced legal education to 30 selected judges from mainland China every year. The judges are based in Hong Kong for the duration of the programme.
"While the Chinese judges extend their knowledge about international legal standards, local students get the opportunity to learn more about the practice of law on the mainland," Dr Lin notes. The agreement serves as a "legal educational link" between mainland China and the rest of the world.
The school has also established an exchange programme called The Global Gateway that gives students the chance to travel to the US for four weeks to study at the Columbia University law school. The trip includes a study trip to the US Supreme Court and Department of Justice in Washington.
Applicants for the LLM programme should have an honours degree in law or an equivalent qualification. People already working as legal practitioners are also eligible. Students should be proficient in English if they are applying for the English modules, or in English and Mandarin if they are applying for the Chinese modules.
Students may choose from Chinese and comparative law, international economic law, common law, as well as a general stream.
Students generally take one or two years to complete the 32-credit programme.
Dr Lin stresses that the credit system, and the option to enter a general stream, are designed to provide flexibility to students who have to juggle their studies with full-time employment.
With more companies entering the mainland China market and a growing need for professionals with an understanding of the Chinese legal framework, the Chinese stream has attracted increasing numbers of students over the past few years.
However, the international economic law stream, dealing with international legal issues concerning business transactions with an emphasis on problems related to Asian jurisdictions, remains the most popular.
"A global view and network are essential for legal professionals wanting to succeed in a broader legal context. Our LLM programme provides a good starting point for further career development," Dr Lin concludes.
Reaching for the top
- High-tech facilities enhance learning environment
- Partnerships with renowned law schools benefit students and faculty staff
- Diverse student body and exchange programme increase international exposure
- Credit structure and study options provide flexibility for working students