Chinese University's programme makes life tough for students The Chinese University and City University were the first two institutions in the city to introduce the full-time, two-year Juris Doctor programme law degree. The degree is intended to provide a 'comprehensive and in-depth legal education to students without a prior background in law'. Stephen Hall, associate dean (graduate studies) and director of the Juris Doctor programme at Chinese University, started the programme at City University before moving to his new position to launch a tailor-made degree. He noted some important differences between them. 'Our programme has scope for students to do electives, so there is more freedom in terms of their collecting the requisite credit units to get their degree, the capacity for them to specialise in areas of interest and the development of academic and professional expertise in particular areas,' he said. The Juris Doctor programmes are designed specifically for graduates from non-law disciplines and can potentially lead to admission to the legal profession. The most common backgrounds in the programme at Chinese University, for example, are accountancy, finance and economics, general arts, such as history, and languages, followed by engineering. Devin Sio is a full-time second-year student in the Chinese University's programme. He majored in business at City University where he was inspired by Professor Hall, the professor of law there at the time. He wanted to add law to his qualifications to better his career. 'I don't know about the other law programmes but I feel that we have the best teachers in our law school,' Mr Sio said. 'We have a wonderful graduate law centre. It's a little bit crowded and sometimes we don't have places to meet for discussion, which is one drawback, but the teacher and peer-group quality and the facilities are wonderful.' He said the programme was tough, with five courses each semester and each course requiring 30 pages of reading every week - a fact that Professor Hall reiterated. 'If a prospective student calls me up and asks about what it's like to be in the Juris Doctor programme, I tell them it is not the pathway if they want the easy route - this is the most difficult route. The fact that it's the most difficult route is the major reason the law firms find our graduates attractive. But it does put some prospective students off,' he said. Before joining the programme, Mr Sio had two goals for his career: to work in the business sector and then as a lawyer. Now, after 18 months of study, he is caught up in the theory of law and contemplating going into the academic field. 'The programme has helped me to gain knowledge and skill as a lawyer, but the most important thing is that it has helped me learn how to think,' he said. 'As a business student, I applied what I learned but I didn't think or analyse so much. Now I ask myself why, is what I am doing right or wrong? This will help me to make better decisions in any area I go into.' In September, the University of Hong Kong also launched a Juris Doctor programme by its faculty of law - the third such programme in the city.