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Who says you need a year to earn a Master of Laws degree? Northwestern University School of Law on Tuesday announced a new program through which foreign lawyers can complete an LL.M. in just 15 weeks — the shortest program of its kind. “We think it’s innovative,” said Janet Garesche, director of the school’s LL.M. and tax programs. “For people who can’t spend an entire year in the U.S., its a good option to learn the basics of the U.S. legal system. This is common in business schools, and we’re trying to get people used to this type of curriculum in the law setting.” The accelerated LL.M. program is open only to foreign lawyers and will emphasize “the importance of the role of the lawyers as a strategic advisor in business,” the school said in a written statement. The program includes 20 credit hours that can be taken during two consecutive six-week sessions over the summer, or split into two six-week sessions over two summers. Although the classroom instruction will last for 12 weeks, the program includes an additional three weeks for exams. “Accelerated LL.M. classes will meet five days a week and students will spend up to five hours a day in classes,” said Mayer Freed, associate dean for academic affairs. “This will give them sufficient time to prepare for class and also engage in professional development and social activities with classmates and others.” Professors will employ innovative techniques to help students more easily retain the material, given the accelerated class schedule. Courses will cover legal issues related to business law such as contracts, intellectual property and dispute resolution. Participants must also complete an online introduction to the American legal system class before starting the accelerated LL.M. Accelerated LL.M.s aren’t a new idea. For example, the University of California, Berkeley School of Law for several years has allowed foreign students to earn an LL.M. in 20 weeks split over two summers. Still, Northwestern has been something of a pioneer in offering shortened degree programs. It was the first top-tier law school to offer a two-year juris doctor program, which debuted last year. The University of Dayton School of Law and Southwestern University School of Law also offer two-year J.D. programs. Although Northwestern offers LL.M. programs in Tel Aviv, Israel; Madrid, Spain; and Seoul, South Korea, the accelerated LL.M. will be offered only at the main campus in Chicago. The program will begin during the summer of 2011 and will run from May to mid-August. Tuition has not yet been set.

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