Source: Hamad bin Khalifa University

Northwestern Exports to Qatar Its First U.S.-Style Law School

Northwestern and Harvard are working to create an American-style legal program in Qatar

Northwestern University School of Law will help launch a graduate law school in Doha, Qatar, that will be the first program of its kind in the Middle East. Last week, Hamad bin Khalifa University announced the launch of the program, which will begin classes in the fall and offer juris doctor degrees, the standard at U.S. law schools.

A Northwestern professor, Clinton Francis, will be interim dean at the new school and, together with other faculty, will create the curriculum and hire staff, the University said in a statement last week.

“I think what they saw, as the value added of a postgraduate J.D. program, is the ability to do much more transnational law and train the next generation of leaders,” Daniel Rodriguez, dean at Northwestern, told the National Law Journal. Until now, legal education in the region has been directed toward undergraduates.

In a statement last week, Hamad bin Khalifa University confirmed that the new degree would focus on “international comparative law” but said that the goal is specifically to boost Qatar’s natural resources: its citizens.

“The three-year JD program is aligned with HBKU's ambition of serving the human development needs of Qatar,” the university said. Officials in Qatar plan to work with other experts from international law schools in developing the program.

Harvard University has already consulted with the university on building the law school, the National Law Journal reported.

Heading abroad may be a good bet for U.S. law schools, which are staring at a financial threat at home, thanks to waning interest in legal education, along with plummeting enrollments. To help bulk up classes, some schools have quietly lowered standards for applicants or dropped the law school admissions test for top students. Northwestern's approach opens up a further option: Invest in building law schools where supply is low—and people want an American law degree.

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