Law school launches entrepreneur masters program

Next year, the School of Law will help students navigate the world of entrepreneurship with a new masters program.

Duke’s law school will introduce the Law and Entrepreneurship LLM Program in the 2010-2011 year.

“[The program] will examine, teach and research the various forces social, economic, political and legal that impact entrepreneurial activity in the United States,” said James Cox, Brainerd Currie Professor of Law.

 Jon Fjeld, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Fuqua School of Business, said the new graduate program will offer opportunities for collaboration at Duke and will offer law students more career options.

“You probably heard more about entrepreneurship now than you did 10 years ago, you hear the president of the United States talking about entrepreneurship,” Fjeld said. “Obviously something is going on, or at least people think something is going on, and I think it has to do with this recognition that new solutions and innovation are often best achieved in an entrepreneurial spirit. So people are trying to line up behind it, and I think the legal profession is part of that puzzle.”

The law school does not currently have a concentration of classes that deals with the legal side of entrepreneurship, Cox said. This program will familiarize students with the field and instill skills and knowledge that will be useful in start-up business environments.

Andrew Foster, director of the Community Enterprise Clinic, said the entrepreneurial environment is not far from campus—proximity to Research Triangle Park offers students a chance to hone their skills, he said.

“One of the reasons it makes sense to do a degree like this here is that we are so close to RTP and there is a real innovative, entrepreneurial economy in the local area,” said Foster, one of the members of the faculty committee charged with developing the program and its curriculum. “We want to both support and serve that community but also benefit from it in the sense that it provides a lot of great opportunities for our students.”

He added that the idea for the program came from the law school wanting to take a leadership role in the University-wide engagement in entrepreneurship.

Bill Brown, visiting professor of the practice of law, will teach a core class in the program. Brown said the degree will appeal to several types of interests, including students or lawyers who want the flexibility to become entrepreneurs, those who want to specialize their legal knowledge in entrepreneurship and those who want to be better business lawyers.

The new program will require 23 credits over two semesters and require students to complete an externship in RTP, said Cox, who will serve as the program’s faculty director. Fuqua, the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Pratt School of Engineering will work with the law school on this program.

“I think there is a great opportunity for integration between the programs across Duke—the law school, the engineering school, Trinity and Fuqua. That’s really the goal we’re working toward,” Fjeld said.

Applications for the program are not yet available, but Cox said enrollment will be capped between 20 and 30 students for the inaugural year.

But Duke is not the only university with plans to establish such a program. The University of Colorado is also hoping to debut a similar program for the next school year and is currently awaiting its approval.

“We would welcome the trend,” Cox said. “I think we are a leader in [the field by] being there first.”


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