A new law school at Qatar’s Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU) will be the first in the region to offer a juris doctor (JD) postgraduate degree – the “centerpiece” of legal education in the US and several other countries, officials announced today.
The three-year program, which is expected to launch this fall with an initial class of 20 students, will be run in partnership with US-based Northwestern University at Education City. Where exactly classes will be held has yet to be determined.
Unlike many of the other programs offered on the campus, students will receive an HBKU degree, rather than one from a foreign university.
As a brand-new program, the HBKU degree would not yet be recognized by international accreditation bodies or foreign countries.
But discussions are currently underway with Qatar’s Office of the Attorney General, Justice Ministry and local legal industry bodies to ensure the degree is recognized in this country when the first class graduates in 2018.
Discussions about HBKU establishing a graduate law school first emerged in 2012. At the time, HBKU said it was working with Harvard University to set up the program.
There is currently a law school at Qatar University that offers an undergraduate-level Bachelor of Law, or LL.B, degree and has a student body of approximately 800, according to its website.
Qatar University also plans to launch a graduate law program this fall and will grant a Masters of Law, or LL.M.
Understanding the law
While some graduates of the new program are expected to go on to work at law firms, HBKU provost and executive vice-president Ahmad Hasnah said the new school’s aim goes beyond graduating lawyers.
Speaking to Doha News following a press conference today, he said:
“What we’re trying to focus on is graduating leaders who understand the law and understand the spirit of the law and see … (how that knowledge can be used to make) your society, your country better from a governance perspective and public policy perspective.”
The program’s curriculum – which will be taught in English – “has been designed to meet the unique needs of Qatar,” Dr. Clinton Francis, founding dean of the school said during today’s press conference.
It will focus on civil law, common law, Islamic law and take into account legal principles that reflect the makeup of Qatar’s economy, with an emphasis on energy, infrastructure development, finance, health care as well as culture and media.
In addition to theoretical knowledge, students will be trained in contract drafting, trial advocacy, dispute resolution, negotiation and presentation skills.
Faculty members will be drawn from Doha, Northwestern’s Chicago campus and other academic institutions.
Applications are now being accepted for the program online. Officials said that the size of the incoming class of 2018, while initially small, would be adjusted based on its popularity and “market demand.”
They declined to give tuition figures, saying only that the fees charged by other law schools in the region would be taken into consideration.
The JD degree differs from the LL.M as it does not require incoming students to hold an existing law degree.
HBKU law students are required to hold an undergraduate degree in any discipline and possess a “strong academic record.”
HBKU’s three-year program is also longer than an LL. M, which typically takes a year to complete.
While the goals of HBKU’s program are geared beyond bolstering the ranks of Qatar’s legal system, its launch nevertheless comes amid other efforts to attract more people into the profession.
In 2013, compensation packages for judges, prosecutors and judicial assistants was increased in part to motivate more Qataris to enter the country’s legal system. And last year, a UN official said the country’s justice system lacked a sufficient number of qualified and interested Qataris.
While Hasnah agreed that the new program would mean Qatari students can pursue graduate legal studies closer to home, he added that it was his vision to attract students from Japan, the US and other counties in future years.
Not sure I understand why the program is connected with NU-Q. Any light on this?
It is not related to NU-Q. The partnership is between HBKU and the law school in Northwestern Uni in Evanston (main campus). NU-Q has branches of the school of communication and Medill “school of journalism” both totally unrelated to the school of law. The partnership between HBKU and Northwestern has nothing to do with NU-Q, and HBKU law program will not offer an NU degree like NU-Q …
So it will of course be no drain on any of the NU-Q facilities or resources..
A law program in English… Qatar’s legal system is 100% in Arabic. It seems like Qatar isn’t a target for this degree.
Agreed it will be a bit different from how things operate here. As far as I understand there aren’t even that many international law firms operating here and the profession is largely dominated by non-English speakers.
Arabic? Don’t you mean Egyptian? 😉
because Egyptian is not Arabic
Yeah, you missed the joke entirely.
And it is unaccredited. A JD degree from HBKU will not be well-regarded or respected outside of Qatar (at least in the Western world) because it is unproven/unknown as a school — so given that, why are they choosing to offer this degree in English? It doesn’t make sense. Any quality candidates would apply and be accepted at a law school elsewhere (in a country where and in a language that they actually intend to practice).
Unless it was a test case for progressively moving all the Ed City degrees over to HBKU? Gotta start somewhere…
Now that would be an interesting battle to see. Completely pointless, but interesting to watch from the sidelines.
The minute that THAT begins to happen, there will be a mass exodus of both students and staff from the Ed City universities. They didn’t sign on to attend or work at HBKU. HBKU can neither command the tuition/fees that these American universities do nor draw the caliber of faculty that currently work there.
Think bigger picture, graduates from here could work as advisers to local firms on IP issues and access the case law. They aren’t going to be defending a a shoplifter in a court here, in much the same was as an Arabic speaking judge in the system here wouldn’t have the legal, or possibly language, background for such things. They could however, help with the drafting of contracts and the like.
NU law is big in intellectual and technological property rights law and the like. I’m not familiar with any Arabic world university that is, and the language for such things would be English. It would make perfect sense if one were thinking ‘knowledge society’ and what not.
This sounds like it is a degree that has a large grounding in international contracts and commercial law. Given that many contracts in Qatar are between local and international companies and contain contract clauses stating legal disputes will be held in a country other than Qatar – eg UK or Switzerland – it certainly doesn’t hurt to have Qatari’s who are strong in this area. Why rely on western commercial lawyers who will eventually leave Qatar when you can develop the expertise within the country. The degree being offered by HBKU alone and not via NU is something which I’m sure can be remedied. The program is after all being offered by one of the world’s leading universities so there are options.