Law School Forges International Agreements with Sorbonne and Cergy-Pontoise

Washington University School of Law has negotiated two agreements with French schools, the University of Paris I–Pantheon-Sorbonne Law School and the law school of Cergy-Pontoise, making these Washington University’s 13th and 14th international partner schools, respectively.

The agreements build upon the connections of Leila Nadya Sadat, the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law and director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute, who has taught and studied at the Sorbonne and recently served as the Alexis de Tocqueville Distinguished Fulbright Chair at the University of Cergy-Pontoise. Sadat, who holds a diplôme d’études approfondies (DEA) from the Sorbonne, also has practiced international business law in Paris and clerked for both of France’s supreme courts.

“The Sorbonne is a world-famous university housing one of France’s elite law schools,” Sadat says. “Its faculty and alumni are all connected to the practicing and academic community in Paris and throughout the European Union. 

“Having a degree from the Sorbonne will, in a meaningful way, advance our students’ international career options, and having high-quality students in our Washington University classes from both the Sorbonne and the newly-established, yet highly-regarded Cergy-Pontoise law school will contribute to the caliber of our LLM program for foreign students,” she adds.

Under the terms of the agreement with the Sorbonne, Washington University students will earn a JD from Washington University and a first-level Masters (M1) from the Sorbonne, while each Sorbonne student will earn an M1 degree from the Sorbonne and an LLM in U.S. law from Washington University. In the future, highly qualified M1 graduates will be eligible to study for the second Masters (the “M2”), which is offered entirely in French and which enables graduates to sit for the Paris bar.

Washington University students will have access to the entire masters-level course catalog at the Sorbonne. This catalog includes both English-language (mostly French and European business-law courses) and French-language courses.

“Because at least a significant portion of this program will be taught in French, it is intended for Washington University students with sufficient French language competency to handle the course work,” says Michael Peil, associate dean for international programs and executive director of the Transnational Law Program.

The agreement with Cergy-Pontoise will offer a strong alternative for students whose language skills are not yet sufficient to study law in French.

“Cergy-Pontoise is one of France’s newer law faculties and is ranked among Paris’ top law schools,” Peil says. “Through the program, our students will have the opportunity to study with a young and dynamic faculty that is teaching in English as well as in French, while they work on their French language skills.”

Washington University’s strong international programs already attract a small number of French students, and the 2008 introduction of the Transnational Law Program has increased interest in Washington University among French-speaking undergraduates.

“Our admissions staff reports a growing number of Francophone students asking why there is no French language option for post-graduate studies,” says Peil, noting that French is a common language in significant portions of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, and it is used in many international legal institutions.

The law school’s other exchange partnerships are with Bucerius Law School, Catholic University of Portugal, Fudan University in China, Hong Kong University, IDC-Herzliya, Korea University, National University of Singapore, National Taiwan University, Queen’s University Belfast in the United Kingdom, University of Queensland in Australia, University of Trento in Italy, and Utrecht University in the Netherlands.