Penn is adding another dual-degree program to its repertoire, this one between the School of Engineering and Applied Science and Penn Law School.
In fall 2015, the two schools will launch a completely new one-year program that will provide a master of laws degree for students in the Engineering graduate school.
Unlike going to law school, the one-year program will not license students to practice law, but will give them a legal background and training in their respective fields. A similar dual-degree program already exists for students in the Perelman School of Medicine.
“I came into this with a great conviction that lawyers need to learn about technology,” said professor of Law, Communications and Computer and Information Science Christopher Yoo. “But what I’m discovering is that engineers need to learn about business and law policy.”
This program is unique in its field. Professor of Computer and Information Science Jonathan Smith believes this program will receive a high yield in terms of its accepted applicants, just as the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology does for undergrads.
“There are very few schools that combine a first-class engineering school and law school with the kind of interest that we have on this campus,” Smith said.
The law school will begin accepting applicants until the fall.
Second year law student Lucas Tejwani is currently enrolled in the JD/MCIT program, a four-year program between the Law School and Engineering School. While his program lasts three years, as opposed to the newly-developed one-year program, he has found a niche at the intersection of law and technology.
“Tech companies and the government are in a complicated relationship,” Tejwani said. “I am really interested in Internet privacy and data security, and these ideas were particularly topical when I entered law school.”
Tejwani is a guinea pig in this program. While he does agree that law and engineering have many differences in terms of class expectations, he argues that there is some cross-over as both involve “synthesizing smaller building blocks in a calculated way to make a final product, like a legal brief or a software product.”
Yoo explained that the course load for those who choose to do this joint degree is not easy and that the students will be “pushed outside their comfort zone, but will find it very rewarding.”
Smith agreed, saying the intersection of the two fields is especially important today. “You want innovation, but you don’t want elephants driving mice out of the way,” he said. “You need to know about monopolies, innovation in the computer science domain, and the technology in sharing things effectively.”
Yoo also describes a huge need for professionals with background in both degrees as they enter the working world. “Agencies are hungry to hire people like this,” he said.
This is not the first time Penn Law and the Engineering School have collaborated. Since 2013, the two schools have offered a joint-degree program allowing students to earn a Master of Engineering or a Master of Computer and Information Technology and a Juris Doctor at the same time.
“We appreciate these combinations,” said Joseph Sun, the vice dean for academic affairs for the Engineering School. “For the right students it’s the right path to provide a program of education that meets students’ interests in engineering and legal policies.”
A previous version of this article stated that Penn Law School currently provides a program with Perelman School of Medicine and Wharton, but there is no formalized arrangement with Wharton. Also, a previous version of this article stated that Lucas Tejwani is enrolled in the one-year Master of Law program for Engineering students, but he is in the three-year JD/MCIT program.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.