In an effort to be innovative in providing a legal education that meets market needs, the City University of Hong Kong's (CityU) School of Law recently announced the launch of two programmes for next year - a two-year Juris Doctor (JD) programme and a four-year Bachelor of Laws (Honours) degree course. They have been created in response to recommendations made by a commissioned consultation on legal education in Hong Kong. Since its establishment, City University has strived to take a different educational path from that of the University of Hong Kong (HKU). 'We have moved out of the shadows of HKU,' said Stephen Hall, associate professor at CityU and programme leader for the JD course. 'We play quite a different role in legal education in Hong Kong.' Enrolment for the undergraduate course indicates that the university is attracting students from different backgrounds. 'We have noted a stable demand from mature students for our law programmes. The JD programme will be the solution to the problem of over-subscription by graduate students - we can give the LLB slots back to the school-leavers,' Dr Hall said. The JD course is expected to attract recent graduates with a non-law degree, or experienced executives looking for a career change. The programme is planned in six semesters over two years on a full-time basis (or three years on a part-time basis). JD graduates would have to follow a further one-year study course for a Postgraduate Certificate in Law (PCLL) in order to be recognised as a lawyer in Hong Kong. The programme will serve as a solid foundation for students who wish to acquire a professional qualification for leadership roles in commerce, industry, government, media or community service. 'You will acquire a comprehensive legal knowledge in contracts, company, criminal, property, constitutional and administrative laws. Plus, you will gain a good understanding of both the Hong Kong and PRC legal systems.' The law school believes that graduating students with a broad overall knowledge would be more sought after for corporate executive positions than those with a general MBA degree. As the only law school in Hong Kong that provides such courses, the CityU School of Law aims to differentiate itself from other legal education providers in four ways: admission of bachelor graduates or above; a significantly shorter duration of study; exemption from general elective courses, and a compulsory legal research paper. 'We are benchmarking against the best practices. We are using a partnership approach with our students,' Dr Hall said. Studies in Britain indicate an increasing number of law graduates who are likely to enter the professions rather than becoming barristers or solicitors. In the United States, legal education is seen as the foundation of many careers that are not limited to independent legal practice. 'In my experience at a university in Australia, only 50 per cent of the students will pursue a legal profession after graduation. I believe this trend will become more common in Hong Kong,' Dr Hall said. This is where the four-year LLB course comes into play. The undergraduate programme covers the rudiments of theory and practice in law, and provides a critical understanding of law and legal institutions. Apart from the core subjects, students can choose to specialise in such areas as intellectual property, international law and criminology. Classroom presentations, interactive teaching and group activities are part of the study programme. Anthony Upham, associate professor and LLB programme leader, said the school had invested a great deal of resources in order to make the programme user-friendly. 'We have teamed up with some of the region's leading legal experts, and we are committed to a programme that will help students gain the knowledge they require, and also help them acquire a broad outlook on work and life,' Mr Upham said.