Law schools in Hong Kong are taking aggressive steps to forge links between the different legal systems in Hong Kong, the mainland and the rest of the world. City University of Hong Kong (CityU), is arranging for mainland judges to study at City University, University College, Oxford, and institutions in the United States for their master's programmes. This is the result of the agreements CityU signed with University College, Oxford, and the China Supreme People's Court and National Judges College earlier this year. CityU's School of Law will design several master's degree courses for as many as 30 mainland judges, who will enrol in courses at the prestigious institutions for one month. The school will also provide a one-month course once or twice a year for 30 to 35 senior judges recommended by the National Judges College in judiciary training in Hong Kong. This is the first time the Supreme People's Court and National Judges College have collaborated with an academic institution outside of the mainland to provide training for mainland judges. Wang Guiguo, dean of the School of Law at CityU, said Hong Kong played a strategic role in providing advanced and professional legal training across the border, and across different jurisdictions because of its common law system and affinity with the mainland. He said that, since China's entry into the World Trade Organisation, a need for legal training in topics such as the common law system, intellectual property, international investment, banking laws and regulations, and international trade had risen in the mainland in order to cope with increasing volumes of international trade. Mainland judges also found themselves in need of training in how to communicate their judgments to the involved parties and the general public, a practice that was more often than not expected by people in jurisdictions other than on the mainland, Professor Wang said. 'We expect that those judges will play a very important role in China's judiciary system,' Professor Wang said. 'What we do now will be very helpful in building up the legal system in Hong Kong in the interest of China, and the rest of the world.' The month-long training courses for mainland judges and CityU law students will allow the students to tap into the strengths of different law schools around the world, which feature prominent legal experts in their specialised areas. The university had already engaged in academic exchanges with universities in China, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Britain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. Recognising the need for advanced training, CityU had invested HK$1million in a virtual classroom that will, from this month, allow students to participate in real-time lectures by overseas scholars, including those from Yale University and Oxford. University of Hong Kong's (HKU) Faculty of Law has established a new joint legal education programme with the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada, that allows students to practise law in Canada and Hong Kong after completing the programme. The Faculties of Law at HKU and UBC will each accept up to five students per year, starting in 2009. All students selected will be able to earn the law degrees required for law practice in an additional jurisdiction. The joint legal education programme requires one extra year of study, with HKU law students completing six years instead of five and, UBC's LLB students completing four years instead of three. The first batch of graduates under this programme is expected in 2011. Johannes Chan, dean of HKU's Faculty of Law, said demand for lawyers who could practice in multiple jurisdictions had been on the rise in light of the international nature of many legal transactions taking place. The collaboration between HKU and UBC was forged as they shared a mutual interest in the research of comparative Chinese laws, common law trades and constitutional laws. Set in different social, economic and political environments, the universities may exchange different perspectives on the same topics through the joint legal programme. 'The number of joint legal education programmes, particularly between US institutions on the east coast and Europe, has been increasing in the past decade,' Professor Chan said, calling the programme with UBC the first 'trans-Pacific' joint legal programme HKU had engaged in. Like Professor Wang, he saw Hong Kong as having an edge in offering multi-jurisdiction legal training because of its sophisticated common law system, experience in international trade and close ties with the mainland. 'We are looking at different possibilities in setting up more joint legal programmes with overseas institutions in North America and Europe. The joint legal programme with UBC will be a very useful model for our future plans,' Professor Chan said.