University of Maryland business law students will get more hands-on experience and a taste of the corporate world as part of the school's expanding program.
Under the direction of two new co-directors, the law school plans to roll out a revamped business law track by fall 2011, starting with some new courses this fall. Business law is one of eight specialized programs at the school, including environmental, intellectual property and health care law.
Co-director Michelle Harner said the university had planned to rebuild its business law program even before the recession hit. But the timing — as the job market remains competitive for new attorneys — "does correspond nicely with the increasing needs of students to be more practice-ready," she said.
In addition to classroom work, the new business law program will allow students to shadow business attorneys or financial advisers and participate in business law competitions, where students will compete in a "moot court" setting against other law schools in negotiating deals.
The university also wants to give law students more opportunities to study or work on projects with the university's business students at the College Park campus or at the biotech campus in West Baltimore. Harner said that "part of the challenge for a new business lawyer is learning to speak the language of their counterparts in the business world."
"We want to increase the interaction between students, the practicing bar and the business community," said Harner, an associate law professor who joined the university faculty last fall and had been a partner at Jones Day in Chicago, working on business restructuring and bankruptcy.
The law school, which has about 825 students and offers a three-year program, has heard from more students who are interested in pursuing a broader range of offerings in business law, Harner said.
Some new classes this fall combine business and legal concepts. One course in business planning will be patterned after a small law firm that handles transactional work to familiarize students with how deals are negotiated. Other courses will be offered in corporate finance and accounting for lawyers.
Maryland law professor Robert Rhee, the program's other co-director, said the business specialty requires lawyers to have a deep understanding of business and financial concepts.
"This is best done through a formal course of study, and that's what's motivating us," Rhee said. "Having basic foundational knowledge will provide students with a leg up in the employment area."