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UCI Set to Launch Dual Law, Business Degree Program

University of California, Irvine’s School of Law and Paul Merage School of Business are offering a dual degree program next year.

Graduate students enrolling at UC Irvine in 2009 can earn a juris doctor and a master’s in business administration simultaneously.

Employers find the combination of legal and business knowledge attractive in the hiring process as the two become more intertwined.

The four- to five-year program will offer courses in law and business, which will be taught by UCI professors and industry professionals.

The program will give students an opportunity to learn the disciplines so that they can pursue careers as attorneys, business executives or both, according to business school Dean Andy Policano.

“We think the combination of law and business is very powerful,” Policano said. “A lot of students coming out of law school don’t understand business and the same thing happens in the opposite direction for students graduating from an M.B.A program,they don’t understand the legal environment.”


What They’ll Learn

More law-focused students will learn how to handle corporate lawsuits and business issues such incorporation, mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings and regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Policano said.

Students interested in pursuing careers in business can apply their legal knowledge to contracts, patent, trademark and copyright issues, accounting, globalization, labor and employment issues and all of the other legal aspects that go into running a business, Policano said.

“This kind of program makes students much more sophisticated in their expertise,” said Jones Day attorney Thomas Malcom, who sits on law school Dean Erwin Chemerinsky’s advisory committee. “It also makes students much more flexible with their career choices.”

The program still is in its early groundwork phase, said Chemerinsky, and has yet to determine how many students will be admitted to the program.

The 60 students who will be admitted into the law school’s first class in 2009 will be given the option of enrolling in the joint degree program, Chemerinsky said.

UCI likely will keep the program’s class small so that students can work closely with professors, he said.

The university still is working out the details with the program’s funding, coursework and tuition cost, Chemerinsky said. UCI plans to tap industry professionals to help develop relevant courses and to teach classes and seminars, Policano said.

One thing is for sure, getting into the program won’t be easy, Chemerinksy said.

“I expect that admission will be very competitive,” he said.


LSAT and GMAT

Prospective students will be required to take the law school admission test and the graduate management admission test, he said.

Other factors such as high undergraduate grade point averages and work and volunteer experience will be considered as well, Chemerinsky said.

“We’re looking for well-rounded students who really have a passion for learning about law and business,” he said.

A joint law and business degree program is nothing new.

Many local universities including University of Southern California, University of California, Los Angeles, and Chapman University have J.D./M.B.A. programs.

UCI’s law and business program will stress experiential learning where students will be required to work outside of the classroom and in the field, Chemerinsky said.

“We’re starting on a clean slate because of our new law school,” he said. “There are a lot of joint programs out there but we want ours to be innovative. We don’t want this program to be like all of the others.”


Needs Accreditation

Recruiting students to a joint law and business degree program where its law school has yet to be accredited by the American Bar Association could deter some students from enrolling in it.

The law school hopes to apply for accreditation during the 2010-11 school year and be provisionally accredited by the end of that academic year, according to the school’s Web site.

Fundraising will be another issue.

State budget cuts are already making it difficult for public universities to fund new programs and recruit professors, Policano said.

Attracting donations in a down economy could be difficult, but it’s likely local businesses and law firms will step up to the plate, said attorney and dean advisory committee member Francis Quinlan.

The local business and legal community could benefit from the program because it could create a better skilled workforce, he said.

“This kind of program makes sense for Orange County’s business community,” Quinlan said.

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