By Susan Gluss
Berkeley Law is expanding its reach to untapped audiences worldwide, launching a variant of its prestigious LL.M. program that combines online courses with in-residence instruction. Foreign attorneys eager to earn a master of law degree from UC Berkeley can now combine one summer term on campus plus four online courses.
Admissions requirements for the new LL.M. hybrid option remain stringent, and the online courses are designed to match the rigor and standards of in-residence classes.
“In our online courses, as in our brick and mortar classrooms, students interact with faculty and peers through discussion groups, attend office hours and meetings, and receive regular assessment and feedback,” said Susan Whitman, Berkeley Law’s assistant dean for Academic Planning.
The hybrid option complements the law school’s existing LL.M. degree programs, which include a traditional track of nine months in Berkeley; a professional track, which offers the same coursework over two consecutive summers; and a thesis track of in-depth study.
But not every foreign-based attorney has the flexibility of spending an academic year or two summers away from their jobs and personal lives.
“The hybrid option program is ideal for highly-qualified students who would otherwise forgo attending an LL.M. program due to work or individual commitments and travel constraints,” Whitman said.
The online courses, offered publicly for the first time, were road-tested a few years ago to superb student reviews. In a unique pilot program, faculty members William Fernholz and Molly Van Houweling taught Fundamentals of U.S. Law and Introduction to Intellectual Property, respectively. The new program incorporates elements of each course including interactive discussion forums, video lectures, and narrated screencasts. Quizzes, team projects, and high-profile guest interviews complete the package.
“For students, it’s akin to a small, engaged community, with the instructor serving not only as an educator, but also as a mentor and advisor,” said professor Robert Merges, who leads the law school’s global engagement efforts. “The hybrid approach combines the schedule flexibility of online coursework with the chance to spend an educationally and culturally immersive summer in the San Francisco Bay Area.”
“It was truly fun and interesting to do the online course. Of course, nothing beats attending Berkeley physically, but a mix of the two is total perfection,” wrote Meike de Boer, LL.M.’14, who took Introduction to Intellectual Property.
The LL.M. hybrid option degree program requires 6 units of online courses in the spring, a minimum of 16 units of in-residence courses during the summer, and 2 online units in the fall. A final capstone paper— evaluated by two faculty members—must examine a cohesive synthesis of complex legal issues.
During the three-month summer term, students will be involved in the full array of professional opportunities that are a Berkeley Law hallmark, including visits to top Silicon Valley companies, such as Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn; networking events with attorneys from leading Bay Area law firms; and seminars with preeminent practitioners.
Once they graduate, all Berkeley Law LL.M. alumni become members of the school’s worldwide network of attorneys spanning more than four dozen countries. It’s an invaluable peer community in a burgeoning global legal market.
Enrollment is now open for the January 2018 term. If student feedback from the pilot program is any indication, the LL.M. hybrid option may be a popular choice.
Learn more about Berkeley Law’s online course design philosophy.