Become a team player with real legal cases

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Gruppenbild der Lehrenden im Studiengang AWR

The AWR team is already looking forward to the start of the semester in October: Prof. Dr. iur. Josef Bongartz, Prof. Dr. Eva Kirner, Prof. Dr. iur. Gerrit Horstmeier, Prof. Dr. Melanie Seemann, Prof. Dr. Julika Baumann Montecinos, Hannes Schlenker, Prof. Dr. iur. Thilo Schülke (from left to right)

New degree programme at HFU as an alternative to traditional law studies

At Furtwangen University (HFU), a dedicated team from the HFU Business School is preparing for the launch of the new "Business Law" (AWR) course. The first students are expected to arrive in Schwenningen in October. Prof. Dr. Gerrit Horstmeier, Prof. Dr. Josef Bongartz and Prof. Dr. Thilo Schülke will be teaching on the new course and can hardly wait. In this interview, they provide an insight into the exciting course content and explain why the concept is a strong alternative to conventional law studies.

Professor Horstmeier, as the future Dean of Studies for "Business Law", you designed the concept and the content of the course. What is special about this course?

Prof. Horstmeier: "Our course is very different from the traditional law degree taught at universities. Many students certainly have the image of a judge or lawyer in mind when they think of studying law. AWR, on the other hand, is designed to avoid litigation. We focus on everything that is important for companies."

What subjects are taught at HFU?

Prof. Bongartz: "I'm a professor of private and commercial law and teach students the basics of civil law, for example, as well as legal methods and working techniques."

Prof. Schülke: "And I will be teaching international business law. This is an in-depth insight into legal issues that affect companies. As there is no internationally standardised law on commercial law, we have to compare the framework conditions in Germany and the European Union with those in other countries. How to network with each other contractually is relevant for every company today, not just for the big global players."

Prof. Horstmeier: "I have packed into the course what I would have liked to have as a corporate lawyer myself. It's not just about purely theoretical legal knowledge, but about implementation skills. We have a completely different approach from universities, which only teach this to a very limited extent. Thanks to the high practical component, our graduates will know exactly what is important in companies. In addition to the basics of the law, they also learn about the economic fundamentals of companies, such as financing, marketing and HR. They will be able to read balance sheets."

What exactly does high practical relevance look like?

Prof. Bongartz: "On the one hand, it's the background of the lecturers. We all have years of practical experience. I myself have worked as a judge and public prosecutor, among other things. We can bring this experience into our teaching. That's why we've also decided to work with 'real life cases' that reflect actual decision-making situations in companies. In this respect, our course differs from a traditional law degree. There, teaching is based on constructed and therefore artificial cases, which are also intended to familiarise students with more remote legal problems. This may take completeness into account, but such cases almost never occur in real life."

Prof. Schülke: "We will not only discuss prominent cases, for example from the media, but also bring our own challenges from our professional experience. We'll also be going through all the steps involved in setting up a business or going bankrupt. Incidentally, 50% of the course is taught in English, as this is simply the common language of business."

Studying law is considered particularly difficult. What is it like at AWR?

Prof. Bongartz: "The legal state examination is actually a learning and examination psychology disaster. You have to have all the exam material ready for one date, the state exam, when it comes to a grade which will decide the rest of your life. That will be completely different for us. As a university of applied sciences, you earn your credits 'on the way'. Every module you pass counts towards your final grade."

Prof. Horstmeier: "In traditional law studies, it is also common for students to book a – usually very expensive – revision course to prepare for the state examination in order to learn all the material. That's not necessary here."

Prof. Schülke: "Traditional exams are not always suitable either. At HFU, we will also use other, much more practical forms of examination. We test knowledge and skills in a way that will be needed later on, and it's less about time and more about finding a good and interesting solution."

To what extent do the career prospects for future AWR graduates differ from those of fully qualified lawyers?

Prof. Horstmeier: "Law graduates are not necessary everywhere. Our graduates will not be lawyers who appear in court. They will work in the legal departments of companies or for notaries or in the offices of lawyers, auditing firms and insolvency administrators."

Prof. Bongartz: "We are in contact with various internationally active companies and therefore know that they often prefer to hire business lawyers rather than so-called fully qualified lawyers from universities. The great company-related practical relevance with business know-how makes the difference. And exciting personalities emerge where people engage in interdisciplinary work."

Prof. Schülke: "We train problem-solvers. Not just doubters who say 'no way', but people who find a legal solution to economic issues."

How many students can enrol at the start - and what should they ideally bring with them?

Prof. Bongartz: "Prospective students should be keen to interact with other people. We train teamplayers. Of course, the course is also about learning and practicing logical analysis and a structured approach to legal problems. This is similar to mathematical thinking, only with concepts. Legal language is peculiar because everyday terms are often used as special technical terms, for example the word 'property'. It's best to bring a certain amount of open-mindedness with you."  

Prof. Schülke: "We have 30 places for which we offer an friendly learning environment. Teambuilding among the students is important to us. With us, learning partnerships are formed, you go through the entire course in the same group."

Prof. Hostmeier: "Typical HFU: our event rooms are in the same corridor as the professors' offices. Students can look forward to personal support from us. And vice versa. We look forward to the first semester students to whom we can introduce our exciting subject area!"

Those interested can still apply for the "Business Law" course until 15 July. Further information, including the online application procedure, can be found at Internal link opens in the same window:www.hs-furtwangen.de.