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UBC law joins up with University of Hawaii

|Written By Glenn Kauth

University of British Columbia law school students will have the chance to combine surfing with their studies as the university establishes a new joint program with the University of Hawaii.

“The idea is simply to expand the opportunities for our students,” says Claire Young, the senior associate dean at UBC’s law school.

The program, the product of an agreement signed in mid-July, will allow students at the two universities to graduate with law degrees recognized in both Canada and the United States.

In doing so, students will spend four years in school, something that would otherwise take six years of study were they to complete the degrees separately.

“It’s two years in each place,” says Young, noting UBC students will do the first half of their studies in Vancouver before heading to the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law for their final two years.

The rationale, she adds, is to acknowledge the fact that with many legal transactions taking place across borders, the ability to practise in multiple jurisdictions is becoming increasingly important.

A few other Canadian law schools have already gone down similar routes, but this is the first time for UBC.

“It’s not a brand new thing, but for us we’ve been waiting to find the right partner,” says Young.

As for the University of Hawaii, the fact that it has a significant focus on compatible areas, such as indigenous studies and environmental law, was key. As well, the geographic connection between the two Pacific jurisdictions played a role.

Under the program, each school will accept up to five students a year starting in the fall of 2010.

To get in, second-year students who have completed their first semester can apply in January to the counterpart university for admission in their third year. Each school will base its decisions on its own criteria, and students will pay tuition at the school they’re actually attending.

Direct comparisons of fees at the two schools weren’t available, but what is clear is that tuition in Hawaii is higher. There, Hawaii residents pay US$7,596 per semester this year, a number that rises to $14,088 for non-residents. Next year, when UBC students start attending the William S. Richardson institution, tuition will increase to $7,980 and $15,012 respectively. At UBC, meanwhile, law students are paying $9,937 for the current academic year.

Nevertheless, Young points out that as a public institution, the University of Hawaii has much lower fees than many U.S. private schools. And, of course, she points out the benefits of the program, something she calls “an exciting opportunity” for students.

“[University of Hawaii] is a very highly regarded U.S. law school,” she says.