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In a case of historical rivals joining forces, Columbia Law School and New York University School of Law Wednesday announced a formal agreement that would allow students from either law school to take classes at the other. Beginning next semester, the long-time competitors for law school rankings, highly-qualified students and renowned faculty members will accept up to 20 students from the other school annually for selected classes. After two years, the schools will review the program and possibly expand it. “I think it’s quite unusual and that it’s a great thing,” said NYU Dean Richard Revesz. “A program of this sort will make both our schools more attractive than the schools outside of New York City.” The formal exchange agreement was the brainchild of NYU Vice Dean Stephen Gillers and Columbia Vice Dean Richard Briffault. While both schools would occasionally permit students to take classes at other law schools on a case-by-case basis, the agreement allows second-year, third-year and graduate students to enroll in any class at the other school provided there is space available. “In any one year there are going to be courses that one school has that the other one doesn’t,” said Gillers. “What I hope to see is that students at both schools take this opportunity to take specialized courses in each school that would otherwise be unavailable to them in a particular year.” Gillers proposed the idea to Briffault about two months ago while the Columbia vice dean was, by chance, spending the year at NYU as a visiting professor. In consultation with Columbia Dean David Leebron and Revesz, the two vice deans worked out a system whereby students will be notified of open spaces in the other school’s classes and then can register online. “One of the advantages of being in New York City is the concentration of resources here of almost every kind,” said Leebron. “It made sense to offer those choices to our students in a formal exchange program.” As a result of the agreement, both schools will be able to offer students an expanded curriculum from which to choose electives, according to Gillers. “When you come to NYU or Columbia you know that a curriculum at another major school within easy commuting distance is available to you after the first year,” said Gillers. POSSIBLE EXPANSION While the program is now limited to 20 students, both sides expect it will be expanded after two years. Leery of unforeseen difficulties that might arise, administrative or otherwise, the schools decided to keep the program small initially. Whether having NYU students at Columbia, or vice versa, will ease the traditional rivalry between the two schools also remains to be seen. “It creates a bridge for sure,” Gillers said. “No one anticipates a merger, but it’s a no-lose situation because it benefits students from both schools and because it expands student choice.” Leebron, who used the opportunity as a reminder that Columbia Law School defeated NYU at the first annual Dean’s Cup basketball game earlier this year, thinks the rivalry will not be affected. “I think the relationship between the schools will remain very competitive,” Leebron said. “These are both schools with a lot of resources. I think we can make some of those resources available to other students while still remaining in a highly competitive relationship.”

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