University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law.
University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law. (Jason Doiy / The Recorder)

The University of California, Berkeley School of Law is venturing into online education with a new hybrid LL.M. program.

Students in the master of laws program will complete their spring and fall coursework online, and come to the Berkeley campus for nearly three months over one summer. It’s the law school’s first foray into online degrees, though the larger Berkeley campus already has fully online programs, said Susan Whitman, the law school’s assistant dean of academic planning. The program at the law school is designed specifically for foreign-trained attorneys.

Many law schools, Berkeley included, have on-campus LL.M. programs that span the traditional academic year. A growing number now offer fully online LL.M. degrees, but Whitman said she was unaware of existing masters of law programs that combine online and in-person elements.

The hybrid LL.M. program builds upon Berkeley’s existing professional track LL.M. program, which students complete over two summers at the Bay Area campus. But not every aspiring LL.M. has the flexibility to spend two full summers away from their lives and jobs, Whitman said.

“I think this program will primarily attract people who, because of family or professional commitments, can’t come for two summers or an academic year,” she said. “I think they will probably be a couple of years out of law school. They may be working and feel that an LL.M will advance their career prospects.”

Students in the hybrid program will kick off their studies in January, taking two online courses during the spring semester. They will complete 16 credits while at Berkeley during the summer months, before taking another online class in the fall and completing a capstone project.

Coming to campus allows LL.M. students to network, visit Silicon Valley companies, take advantage of in-person academic and professional counseling, and soak up Berkeley’s vibrant atmosphere, Whitman said. They tend to feel more connected to Berkeley Law as alumni, having spent time there and developing relationships with fellow students, she added.

Even for the online components, however, students will interact with each other and with faculty members, including during online office hours. “It’s not just a camera in the classroom,” Whitman said.

Administrators hope to enroll between 20 and 40 students in the inaugural hybrid cohort, which will begin in January 2018. Tuition is $57,471, and the application period is open.