Law program joins UI, Brazil

By Rachel Small

The University’s law program will be reaching internationally when the College of Law partners with a university in economically promising Brazil.

Law students at Direito-GV, a school in Sao Paulo, Brazil, will be able to finish either their Brazilian bachelor’s or master’s law degrees at Illinois. That semester will also count toward the completion of a Master of Laws at the University.

“This is a very innovative, very new program,” said Charlotte Ku, assistant dean for international and graduate programs in the College of Law. “One of the things they wanted to add to that was the opportunity for their students to study overseas.”

Ku said the program will benefit law students at the University because it will expose them to foreign law as they interact with the Diereito-GV students.

Ku said the international students will complete their Brazilian degrees during the fall semester and receive their Illinois degrees after the spring semester.

Direito-GV’s law program, with full-time faculty and full-time students, is unusual in Brazil, where most law schools operate on a part-time basis.

“The practice of law is becoming a very global practice,” said Ralph Brubaker, professor and interim dean of the College of Law. “It’s inevitable that not only transactions and deals oftentimes reach across borders, but litigation often reaches across borders.”

Brazil uses a civil law system, as opposed to the common law system used by the United States. Brubaker said he hopes exposure to lawyers from different countries will help familiarize University students with differences in the practices of law elsewhere.

The program will not offer University students a chance to study in Sao Paulo, but Paul Pless, assistant dean for admissions in the College of Law, called the joint degree program “one piece of a larger plan” in place to expose law students to international law.

Brazil’s relatively strong economy factored in to the decision to partner with Direito-GV.

“Brazil is one of the hottest economies in the world,” Pless said. “I would say it’s growing. If I could learn a language, I would learn Portuguese. It’s going to be a big economy, and it’s going to be a major trading economy with the United States.”

Law students in Brazil have already shown interest in the University.

“We already have Brazilian students in our law community because our (Master of Laws) program has attracted Brazilian students in the past,” Ku said. “One of our largest foreign alumni groups is in the law school.”

Direito-GV has begun advertising the program to its students, and Brubaker said he expects anywhere from two to six students to arrive for the fall 2009 semester.

“We think it’s a great program all the way around, and we’re looking forward to bringing some students to Illinois for this program as early as fall 2009,” Brubaker said.