The university cooperation network ELPIS (European Legal Practice Integrates Studies) started in 1983 by initiative of Prof. Dr. Hilmar Fenge together with other German and Greek colleagues. The main idea was to confront students with alternate approaches to legal cases in different systems and surroundings, mutual understanding being the paramount goal. The aim of the project was to discuss and promote students, professors and staff exchanges in the frame of Erasmus program. In the field of teaching, the establishment of common legal degree courses was first executed in Hannover with the Magister Legum Europae (MLE) course in 1988. Its main goal was that after two years of studying law, students were supposed to study at least one more year in one of the partner Universities abroad. The aim of the project: discuss and promote the exchange of students, professors and staff within the frame of the Erasmus Program.
The program became operational in several locations. Ten years later ELPIS embraced about 20 universities, another five years later – 30 universities, and so covered nearly all Member States of the EU at that time plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. All activities and initiatives were debated and decided over plenary conferences, held regularly once or twice a year.
In the field of research, the first collaborating project was an EU funded project titled “The European and Comparative Dimension of Law Teaching in Europe”. It lasted three academic years, from 1996/97 to 1998/99. A large number of law students and lawyers were surveyed in a Europe-wide questionnaire action. The outcome showed that there was still a long way to go and it lead to a better preparation for what law practice should be in a context of a Europe without frontiers.
Nowadays ELPIS has become the biggest network of its kind, within the Law field in Europe, enabling postgraduate and undergraduate students to develop skills in various European law systems and prepare for cross-border juridical professional practice, as well as offering a diversified study program that leads to the Master degree.
The “European Legal Practice Integrated Studies” (ELPIS) programme was created by the ELPIS network and is a supplementary course of study that aims at enhancing the student’s knowledge acquired during his standard studies leading to a national law degree. The participants receive training in European and Comparative Law, as well as in the legal systems of different EU countries. It is supposed to prepare the future lawyers for a trans-national legal practice in the Common Market.
The program addresses advanced students with at least two years of successful studies in a university in the EU or EFTA. The candidates should have a working knowledge of their own legal system and on that basis be able to enlarge their legal horizon at one of the partner universities under a foreign jurisdiction.
The participants are supposed to acquire soft skills particularly needed in the growing Common Market: a sense for different ways of legal thinking and legal argument, the skill of finding and understanding foreign sources of law as well as the ability to link rules of different legal systems and institutional backgrounds in the context of the Law of the European Institutions
After the successful completion of their studies, the participants are awarded with the special academic degree “Magister legum Europae” (MLE).