J.D./Master in French Law (4-year) Program
This program consists of two years of law study at Columbia Law School followed by two years at the University of Paris 1 - Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1). Upon the successful completion of the four years of study, the participants receive the J.D. degree from Columbia and the Master in Law from Paris 1 and qualify for admission to the bar examinations and the bars in the United States and in France. Thus, the number of years normally required for obtaining these degrees (3 years at Columbia and 5 years at Paris 1) is considerably reduced.
The aim of the program is to train lawyers who will be exceptionally well qualified to practice law on an international level. The program offers a complete course of study in both legal systems, affording students an extremely high measure of preparation for the transnational practice of law.
The program at Columbia is directed by a committee of faculty and administrators, including professors George Bermann and Jane Ginsburg. The French director of the program is Prof. Pascal de Vareilles-Sommieres.
At Columbia Law School
Students are expected to take all required Foundation courses in their first year. In the second year, students must take 31 credits of U.S. law. Since students will later have two full years of French civil and European law, their focus should be on American law topics. Generally, students are not encouraged to take clinical law or foreign and comparative law offerings.
At University of Paris 1- Pantheon Sorbonne
The French academic calendar runs roughly from the first week of October to the end of January, and then February through the end of June. In the first year of the program in Paris, students must take the following courses: Business Law I and II (with travaux dirig's), Contracts I and II (with travaux dirig's), Administrative Law I and II (with travaux dirig's), Introduction to Civil Law, Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, European Community Law, and Family Law. In the second year at Paris I, students must take Advanced Civil Law I and II and International Private Law I and II (both with travaux dirig's) and must choose between Labor Law I and II or Corporae Tax Law (each with accompanying travaux dirig's).In addition to these three subjects, six additional elective courses must be taken. Samples of elective courses are: Banking & Securities, Labor Law, International Public Law, Law of Int'l. Commerce, Euro. Commercial Law, Commercial Law/Bankruptcy, Sureties/Guarantees, Matrimonial Law, Intellectual Property, Criminal Procedure Law and Civil Procedure, among others. In the first year in Paris, courses are those taught to French students in the first and second years of law school. In the second year in Paris, they are courses taught to French students in their third and fourth years. The curriculum at Paris focuses on private law courses, and has been organized to provide students with a solid grounding in French law and the majority of subjects covered in the Paris Bar. Courses are almost exclusively lecture-style, while the travaux dirig's are small seminar-type offerings.
Requirements for Student Performance & Grading Methods
Students are evaluated through formal written examinations and oral exams. Students take the first round of exams in late January and early February for the fall semester, and in June for the spring semester. Students receive numeric grades between 1 and 20 for individual courses, which are then averaged together at the end of each year for a final grade. Ten is a passing grade or passable. French honors or mention are given as follows: assez bien for a final grade of between 13-14.9; bien for a grade between 15-16.9; and tres bien for a grade of 17 or higher. If a student does not pass the year, he or she will be allowed to retake exams in September in those classes where a passing grade (10) was not received. Columbia transcripts do not list French grades and only reflect credit for work conducted at the Paris 1. The ABA requires that Columbia receive and review copies of all written work submitted at Paris 1. Therefore, at the end of each semester, students must mail a copy of all course work to Columbia.
Tuition & Fees
Students pay full tuition during the first two years of the program at Columbia. In each of the third and fourth years at Paris 1, students are required to pay 50% of the normal tuition fees. Other fees, including student activity fees, etc, will be waived. Insurance and Health Service Fees can be waived in most instances. Students must pay the tuition ($150) and social security (insurance fees around $200) at Paris 1. However, the tuition paid to Paris 1 will be reimbursed by Columbia. If students are over age 28, insurance should be purchased separately and will cost approximately $900 per year.
Students' financial aid eligibility is not affected by participation in this Program. In the third and fourth years of the Program, Financial aid packages are figured on 50% tuition. As with any move, there are additional costs associated with relocating to Paris. Living expenses in Paris are on a par with those in New York; however, rent is generally less expensive in Paris.
U.S. and French Bars
Most students take the New York Bar and then apply for the equivalency exam to gain entrance into the French Bar. In the past, early examinations for students in the 4L year have been arranged to allow students to return to the U.S. to study for the Bar exam in early June. (French exams usually extend through the end of June into July).Once students have passed the exam and have been admitted to the NY State Bar, they may apply in France to take the equivalency exam. There, a committee is assigned to review each application to determine on which areas of French law the applicant will be examined. It may be possible that graduates of the Double Degree may be exempted from taking several sections of the French equivalency exam because of the number and type of French law courses they have taken through the Double Degree program.
This program has become increasingly attractive to large firms with Paris offices or those with a significant international practice. In a strong economy, students indicated that being a participant in the program assisted them in the interview process and in gaining offers for summer employment. However, during times of economic slowdown, students have experienced difficulty getting a summer associate position between their 2nd and 3rd years, with many firms asking students to re-apply for a summer position between their 3rd and 4th years. The majority of French and U.S. participants have accepted permanent offers for employment in New York, many planning to return to France after one to three years in the U.S.
Application Process for US Students
Columbia JD students may apply in the spring of their first year of study. In mid-March, applicants will be informed if they have passed the initial screening. Interviews for selected students will be conducted in French for selected students by members of Columbia's Double-Degree Committee and by a representative of Paris 1.