Developing the Microfinance Curriculum


SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2010, 12:30PM-1:15PM 

Thomas Vega-Byrnes


Lecturer in Law

University of Chicago Law School 


I.            The importance of Microfinance in the international financial system, and to our students as future practicing lawyers           

  • The extension of financial services to underserved populations
  • The maturation of Microfinance and its merging with the mainstream global markets
  • Increasing parallels between “Bottom of the Pyramid” lending in developing economies and “subprime” or low income community lending in developed economies
  • Further globalization of legal practice will take our students to diverse legal and economic environments, even when they didn’t plan on it

II.            Teaching about an industry as opposed to an area of law

  • Multi-disciplinary approach: law, business and public policy issues / and faculty participation from those schools
  • Covering and reaching out to law faculty in diverse specialties: banking and financial regulation; secured lending; securities law; tax law, and other specialties

III.            Practical skills perspective taught by a legal practitioner

  • Relating professional experience with the international development finance market participants (World Bank, government and regional DFIs, private charitable foundations and private equity funds).
  • Understanding the borderline between the non-profit and for-profit sectors
  • Drafting and negotiating skills: review and discussion of typical transaction documents

 IV.            Where will our students use these skills when they graduate? Different emphases for US J.D. students and non-US students (LLM’s)

  • Most law graduates will not go into Microfinance: how can this course still benefit them?
  • Graduates from developed countries will more often work at the “wholesale” funding level: the greater importance to them of development finance and private equity aspects
  • Graduates from developing countries may work anywhere in the sector, from the World Bank, to advising individual Microfinance Institutions, to becoming financial regulators in their home countries: they need a view of the whole sector top to bottom

V.            Developing the Microfinance Curriculum as a collaborative consortium of law, business and public policy faculty from developed and developing economies

§  The Morin Center (Boston University Sch of Law) initiative to “convene a consortium”

§  Learnings from faculty from diverse countries to build a well-rounded curriculum

§  Developing relationships and feedback directly from MFIs and financial regulators

VI.            Generating legal research and training the future financial regulators who will guide Microfinance in the next generation

  • Introducing academics to Microfinance and getting their interest
  • Generating research topics and research funding
  • Developing opportunities for student internships with institutions in the sector

VII.            Professional responsibility and ethics training

  • Raising the social consciousness of law students
  • Promoting pro bono work
  • Developing curricula in modular format for adaptation to CLE (Continuing Legal Education) courses for working lawyers