Insead, one of the world’s leading business schools, is dipping its toe in foreign waters. From 2011 it will provide business know-how to a masters-level law degree to be taught under the leadership of Paris 2-Panthéon-Assas, the Sorbonne law school.

The plan is for the nine-month LLM programme to be taught in English in both Paris and Singapore. Insead’s contribution will be in leadership and globalisation, says Hubert Gatignon, Insead marketing professor.

The proposed LLM is part of a larger project dubbed the Sorbonne University International Law School, which will combine the strengths of France’s top law school and a top global business school, says Louis Vogel, president of Paris 2-Panthéon-Assas.

Prof Vogel says the aim of the school is to equip France with the top-level lawyers who will go on to become chief financial officers or managers of big companies. “The attraction of the school lies in the fact that it offers innovative courses corresponding to the current international standards, unlike the courses on offer for the time being in France.”

Although Insead is not the first business school to link arms with a law school, it is certainly one of the most high profile. From competition to negotiation and regulation to intellectual property, the boundaries between business school and law school are blurring and the result is an increasing number of masters level LLM degrees with a business bent.

“The LLM is going to be more like the MBA in the global market,” says José Maria de Areilza, dean of IE Law School in Spain. “Law schools are talking more to business schools.”

The past few years have seen a real growth in LLM degrees specialising in business. Duke University in North Carolina has an LLM degree in Law and Entrepreneurship and the American University Washington College of Law has a joint LLM and MBA programme, the latter taught at the American University’s Kogod school of business. Participants on the joint degree receive an LLM and an MBA in a shorter period than if they had studied the two degrees independently.

The nascent LLM market is increasingly showing signs of being the degree of choice for corporate lawyers. The 2010 Financial Times listing of LLM programmes includes 62 schools, six more than the 2009 listing. And of the 56 schools in the listing in 2009, 32 reported a rise in student numbers this year. In particular, 27 of them reported an increase in the number of nationalities represented on their programmes.

The Sorbonne is not the only university in France to identify the need to bring together law and business.

In the east of the country the University of Lyon 2 (Lyon Lumière) has joined with EMLyon, a business school noted for its focus on entrepreneurship, to offer students at the two institutions the opportunity to get two masters degrees. Students taking the option, which will begin in January, will study for a year at EMLyon and then work overseas for six months. They will then take courses for a further three years at the two institutions, graduating with an EMLyon MSc in Management (Grande Ecole programme) and a Master in Business Law, the equivalent of an LLM.

Patrice Houdayer, vice-president of graduate programmes at EMLyon, says the market for these pre-experience graduates is huge.

“Both law firms and companies are constantly expressing their will to hire lawyers that not only master the legal science but are also able to understand the strategic issues of the business world,” he says.

Both the Sorbonne degree and the double degree in Lyon will be launched as a direct result of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to get universities and business schools to work more closely together. This has been engineered by setting up centres or pôles of research in higher education – les pôles de recherche d’enseignement supérieur. Insead is participating in the pôle that brings together Paris II (law), Paris IV (humanities and classical studies) and Paris VI (science and medicine), while EMLyon is working with its local institutions.

One of the biggest incentives for persuading these formerly diverse academic institutions to work together has been the promise of funding. At stake is a share in a €7.7m ($10.5m) pie to be distributed between five and 10 initiatives d’excellence in 2011. Bids for the money have to be submitted by the pôles in December. The money will be spent on increasing France’s competitiveness through the development of education and research under the Investissements d’Avenir project.

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