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U. of Arizona Opens LLB Program in China

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on February 10, 2016 6:00 AM

A dry market has been afflicting the American law school model for years now. It's no secret that even under the most rosy of characterizations, the domestic JD is going though a bit of a bear market.

At least one of America's law schools has decided to take a more pro-active, international approach to address this issue. The University of Arizona's Law School has partnered with China's Ocean University in Qingdao to create an LLB program for undergraduates seeking a law school education, all from the comfort of their own homes.

Law Schools Are Hurtin'

It's hardly news to say that law schools are hurtin'. In the case of U of A, enrollment was down significantly in the domestic market even though it made massive cuts to tuition. Between 2011 and 2015, 1L enrollment fell by about a quarter according to data by the school. Sure, tuition cuts helped to slow the downturn, but it's still a downturn.

A First for the Middle Kingdom

In some ways it was only inevitable that law schools would look to the east as a viable alternative source of potential income. Demand for JDs here in America has been tepid, but international interest in doing business in America still remains high. The "operating premise is that millions of students would like a U.S. education but cannot afford to come," said UA's associate dean Brent White.

The program is the first of its kind between an American law school and a Chinese university. It will allow students to earn a bachelor's degree from an American university without ever having left China's mainland.

Oh, It Get Better

The program allows enrolled students to earn two degrees within a two year period: A bachelors of law from Ocean University, and a bachelors of arts in the law from UA. That sounds like quite a deal, if you ask us.

But unlike American students who (for most jurisdictions) earn a J.D. before they secure a license to practice law, Chinese students only need a bachelor's degree to practice law in China.

The program is currently designed to handle about 400 students per year. And with UA earning $5,000 for every enrolled student, minimal startup costs and a willing arm of the Chinese government, it looks like things are looking up for UA's balance sheet. Professors will also get to stay home in the states and teach the classes entirely in English.

We forgot to mention: other schools are getting in on this China-game. Case Western Reserve University School of Law is also offering a dual-degree program with Zhejiang University.

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