Call it a summer boot camp for in-house counsel.
The University of California, Irvine School of Law plans to launch a Center for Corporate Law next summer, offering extensive training for attorneys in legal departments and those who hope to move in-house.
A handful of law schools already offer executive education for lawyers, most notably Harvard, Georgetown and Northwestern, but their corporate counsel programs tend to last just a few days.
By contrast, Irvine administrators plan an annual six-week slate of summer courses, broken into five-day modules. The six modules will cover management and business skills plus areas of law pertinent to in-house counsel, such as intellectual property. Lawyers can take as many modules as they like, but those who complete at least three of the modules within three years will earn a "corporate counsel" certificate, while experienced attorneys can obtain a "general counsel" certificate upon completing four modules within four years, according to administrators. The program is intended both for experienced corporate counsel and for those entering legal departments or hoping to move in-house.
"I think this will become one of the signature programs of the law school," dean Erwin Chemerinsky said.
The idea for the center emerged from the law school's business advisory council, which noted a lack of robust training opportunities for in-house counsel, Chemerinsky said. That role requires skills most lawyers don't learn at firms or in law school, he said, such as how to advise business clients regarding risk. "We also heard that there are different ethical issues that in-house counsel face."
The law school is in the final stages of raising the approximately $150,000 it needs to hire an executive director and get the center off the ground. Irvine intends to hire a director with in-house counsel experience and offer participants help in finding legal department jobs. The plans include establishing an alumni network. The center will produce research and practical guidance on matters relevant to corporate counsel.
Chemerinsky said the summer program likely would start off small and grow over time. The school plans to recruit students not only in Southern California, but also in China and Korea, where Irvine already has relationships with universities and business leaders. Thus far, local firms and general counsel have been enthusiastic about the idea, he said.
While executive education programs can be solid revenue generators for law schools, Chemerinsky said the new center likely would just break even at first. The curriculum and program costs are still being finalized.
The initial module would cover the basics of the in-house counsel role, including business structures, dealing with outside counsel and ethical issues. Subsequent modules will focus on finance, accounting and corporate governance; corporate strategy and innovation; managing risk; the global business environment; and legal department management. The modules would run from Wednesday through Sunday.