Lawyers and non-lawyers enroll as LAU’s L.L.M. in Business Law takes off
LAU is the only academic institution to offer this program, and the diverse background of enrollees proves the country’s need for it.
“With the global dominance of America and English, common law is most useful,” says Assistant Professor Khodr Fakih, explaining why LAU’s new L.L.M. in Business Law focuses on the Anglo-Saxon common legal system as opposed to the civil legal system adopted by most former French colonies, including Lebanon.
Fakih has been teaching business law courses at LAU since 2009 and believes that graduates of the L.L.M. program — which was launched last month — will find plenty of job opportunities. “Many U.S. law firms have a presence in the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf, where common law is also widely in use.”
Does that mean that the L.L.M. is solely for students seeking to leave Lebanon? Not at all, says Fakih. “The lawyers among our postgraduate students already have a strong knowledge of Lebanese law, since they have studied it at the underground level and have, for the most part, already worked as practicing attorneys in the country. We launched this program to fill a gap in the education system because more and more contracts and international transactions require a strong knowledge of common law.” The banking system, Fakih explains, is but one example. With the U.S. dollar widely in use in Lebanon, the country’s banks — and their lawyers — need to understand U.S. laws.
Moreover, two thirds of the 24 students starting the one-year L.L.M. program this fall are not lawyers but rather work in other professions where an understanding of business law will be of great use. For example, “one student, a graduate of business, wanted to gain some legal knowledge before taking over the helm of his family’s business.”
Other students work in sectors that are increasingly global and bound by non-Lebanese rules and regulations. “Lebanese banks have been inviting lawyers to provide them with training in U.S. taxes and regulations, to help avoid the dire consequences of circumventing U.S.”
In addition to corporate and banking law, the L.L.M. program intends to cover specialist topics such as energy and petroleum law. “These are of particular relevance in Lebanon, and we aim to invite guest lecturers to ensure we offer the best quality teaching and curriculum in each course,” Fakih says.
The large number of enrollments from non-lawyers is significant, as this L.L.M. is the only program of its kind in Lebanon to accept graduates of subjects other than law. According to Fakih, “we are in fact the only academic institution in Lebanon to offer an L.L.M. Thus far, only the Bar Association has offered it, but only to graduates of law. The diversity among our new enrollees is a testament to the need for our program and we look forward to seeing it grow.”