Starting next summer, Law School students will have the opportunity to participate in a unique dual degree program in law and entrepreneurship.
The new joint Master of Law and Juris Doctor degree program is based on the current LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship—a program for law school graduates who want to expand their knowledge with an additional degree focused on entrepreneurship. Duke is the second law school in the country to offer an LLM in entrepreneurship, the first being the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The program falls in line with the University’s recent efforts to support entrepreneurs through its Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative. The initiative, which fosters programs across Duke, recently received a $15 million gift from David Rubenstein, Trinity ’70 and vice chair of the Board of Trustees.
“[The degree is] geared toward people who want to be significant players in the entrepreneurial community,” said Kip Frey, visiting professor of the practice of law and director of the existing Law and Entrepreneurship program. “They may be people who want to start their own company, become members of management teams of startups or become in-house counsel at early stage companies.”
Graduates from law school today want more options beyond the traditional law degree, Frey added.
“The LLM has been in place for two years now, and has created such terrific resources in the school that we thought it made sense to give students enrolled in our JD program the opportunity to pursue that same degree,” said William Hoye, associate dean for admissions and student affairs.
As part of the current LLM in Entrepreneurship program, the Law School has added faculty members and clinics focused on entrepreneurship. This has made setting up the new joint program easier than starting from scratch, Frey said.
Students in the new program will be required to spend an extra summer on campus. In addition to the 84 credits required for the JD degree, joint degree students will earn an extra 20 to 23 credits for the LLM. Each student in the program will spend the summer after their first year working for a startup or similar enterprise in the Research Triangle area.
“The student experience [in the current and new LLM programs] won’t be exactly the same, but they’ll share some of the experiences,” Frey said. “It’s an entrepreneurship boot camp that teaches them about the entire entrepreneurial process in a concentrated period of time.”
The existing LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship gives graduates knowledge they can use every day as attorneys, said Padowithz Alce, LLM ’11.
“My year in entrepreneurship work was worth more than a lot of my other years in school,” Alce said. “It gives you an understanding of business from the entrepreneur’s perspective and from the financing and venture capital perspectives.”
The application process for prospective law students will not change, Frey said, noting that administrators want to gauge interest in the program before setting limits on how many students can enroll in the program.
The hands-on, practical experience of the LLM program in its current form was an important aspect of the program as a whole, Alce noted.
“The benefits I’ve received from going through this program are enormous,” he said.