The buzz phrase among educators in recent years is the need for more “T-shaped graduates”. But what is the significance of this particular alphabet and how does it relate to university students?
T-shaped graduates refer to individuals highly in demand by employers today for their ability to solve problems, lead teams, innovate, build relationships, and strengthen their organisations. They are able to cross domains and are in possession of interdisciplinary skills and attitudes to flourish in today’s workplace.
The hunger for such talent is understandable, considering 60 percent of businesses around the world say they are unable to find candidates who possess the skills their workplace needs.
And nowhere are T-shaped graduates more of value than in the legal world today.
Innovation and disruption aren’t terms to have hit other industries – like finance and transport – and leave law unscathed. From the way firms are structured to the way atavistic curriculum is irrelevant to today’s needs, tectonic shifts are happening in the legal landscape.
Any aspiring lawyer who plans to survive and thrive today’s world appears to have to embrace a two-pronged approach: Specialise and at the same time, acquire knowledge and skills across multiple disciplines that law relates to.
For the longest time, law schools focused on providing a generalist degree. With no majors or concentration, students receive a strong foundation in legal analysis in common or civil law. But nothing more in-depth than this. Back then, it was assumed legal firms would have the time to train their new associates for a particular strain of law.
Fast forward to today and this traditional model is showing signs of being outdated. As the numbers of jobs in law shrink and the industry grows more segmented, businesses are looking for lawyers who are not just able to think like a lawyer, but also like an expert in a particular field.
Law schools which are able to guide their students toward specialties that endure will be the institutions producing the graduates with a competitive edge over others.
Specialisation on its own, however, is folly without being complemented by interdisciplinary training.
A study published in the American Psychology Law Society found that additional specialization might limit job opportunities, but results indicated that the majority of job postings were open to job candidates with interdisciplinary training.
“.. it appears that interdisciplinary training would not be an impediment to students’ success on the job market and may in fact help them to achieve a competitive edge over candidates who are trained in a single discipline or area of research practice,” Amy Kleynhans and Brian H. Bornstein, PhD wrote in a research article for the American Psychology Law Society.
Here are the leading law schools producing today’s T-shaped graduates:
MUNICH INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW CENTER (MIPLC)
We have all come across the multifaceted and fascinating world of intellectual property (IP) in action. From patents to copyrights, modern technical devices and services are based upon thousands of IP rights. Which explains why the demand for IP experts is constantly rising – be it in science, technology, business, the media, or the arts.
Located in Munich, Europe’s IP capital, is the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center (MIPLC), operated by four distinguished institutions: The George Washington University, the Max Planck Society, the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the University of Augsburg.
Every year, a group of around 35 students pursues the one-year full-time LL.M. in “Intellectual Property and Competition Law” which combines both specialisations necessary to modern IP transactions. What really sets this program apart is that about half of its students has a legal background, while the other half holds a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the sciences or engineering.
An international faculty imparts broad yet specialized IP knowledge in its English-medium curriculum, covering all aspects of IP and competition law from both the US and the European perspective. These lectures are supplemented with case studies, an internship and active participation in two international IP congresses.
FACULTY OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI
Going to grad school in Finland’s premier university means getting a top-quality multidisciplinary European education. Its English-taught Master’s Programme: International Business Law (IBL) is a two-year research-oriented programme for those with ambitions to be an internationally-oriented business law professional well-qualified for a career in legal practice and academia.
While business law forms the core of its curriculum, Master’s candidates here also deepen their knowledge of contract, company, competition, and intellectual property law, to name a few. What sets Helsinki apart from other schools is it lets students specialise in business law, but make it applicable to several geographical locations.
“The field of law is usually taught with a strong local emphasis, which narrows down international job opportunities. Our programme is entirely international and is not restricted to one field of business law. One major thing that truly sets us apart from other Master’s programmes is our strong orientation towards Chinese Law and Russian Law, which is something not many programmes can offer,” said Ville Pönkä, Vice-Dean of the faculty and Head of the Master’s Programme in International Business Law.
DURHAM LAW SCHOOL
Ranked in the top 50 in QS World Rankings for law schools, this is where some of the leading legal figures in the UK are made.
“Durham Law School students have more than a deep understanding of law – they know how to challenge and shape it,” said Thom Brooks, Dean & Professor of Law and Government.
There’s a reason behind Durham’s notable list of alumni including current members of the UK Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, Members of Parliament, and in Government. At the postgraduate level, the school’s education philosophy is centred around producing world-class research to tackle global real world issues.
Studying here means getting a specialised, multi-disciplinary qualification. In addition to the general LL.M, Durham offers four other specialised areas for aspiring legal eagles to choose from: International Trade and Commercial Law, Corporate Law, International Law and Governance, European Trade and Commercial Law.
It’s a formula that works well: 93 percent of its postgraduates secure graduate-level employment within only six months after leaving Durham.
KU LEUVEN FACULTY OF LAW
At one of the oldest universities in the world is a Faculty of Law that is the oldest of the Low Countries and the largest in Belgium. Here, more than 5,000 students study a broad-based curriculum with an emphasis on international and comparative approach to education in law and criminology.
Those planning to specialise can choose from several postgraduate programmes. The advanced Master’s programme in IT & IP Law provides an in-depth study of European IP, ICT, and media law.
Whereas the Master in European Social Security is a one-year programme covering the area of social security in its broadest sense – including cash benefit schemes, pensions, and health care systems – but includes the legal, economical, sociological, administrative, and philosophical perspectives.
There’s also the double degree Master’s programme where students spend one year in Leuven and another at the University of Zürich. For this program, students delve into International and European Law in Leuven and Arbitration Law, Financial Law, and Human Rights in Zürich.
*Some of the institutions featured on this article are commercial partners of Study International
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