An LL.M. degree may open doors for you with employers. The LL.M. is an excellent way to upgrade your credentials, to help prepare you for the globalized legal marketplace, particularly if your LL.M. is in a specialized law area in great demand. An extra credential may give you an advantage over other job candidates.
You may want to develop expertise in an area of law in which you will practice, teach, or become a specialized judge or arbitrator.
In many countries law professors must hold a high degree in law—either an LL.M., or an LL.M. and S.J.D./J.S.D./Ph.D.—in addition to a B.A., LL.B. or other first degree in law. U.S. schools offer high quality degrees and have extremely positive reputations, and many overseas schools value these degrees.
You will broaden your professional network during your year in the U.S. You will meet law students from around the world and from the U.S. You will meet lawyers and judges from the local community; and connect with law faculty, staff, and alumni at many levels. You will meet the legal leaders of tomorrow -- your J.D., LL.M. and S.J.D. classmates from around the world, who may return to their home countries and become part of your extended professional and personal network. Many of these people will be, or will become, judges, law firm partners, elected or appointed public officials, or maybe corporate counsel in your home country or in countries where you do business, or who have business with inter-governmental organizations such as the United Nations.
Many domestic judges and judges on international tribunals hold LL.M. degrees from U.S. law schools. For example, judges with U.S. LL.M. degrees sit on the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and the High Courts of Canada, Australia, Philippines, Kenya, France, Thailand, and many other countries. Elected and appointed officials of many countries hold LL.M. degrees from U.S. law schools. These include current or former presidents of Ireland, Republic of Georgia, Taiwan, and India. They have also included Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and other high-ranking cabinet members.
A U.S. LL.M. degree may permit you to retool, recast or reframe yourself professionally. In an LL.M. program, you can acquire skills and experience that will help boost your career: to change employers, to get a promotion, to switch to another department, or to get a salary raise. An LL.M. is a great stepping stone.
While in a U.S. you will learn about U.S. culture and the cultures of other countries your classmates come from. You will be exposed to food, attire, holidays and traditions of many different lands. You will also gain inter-cultural professional and legal competency. You will learn the laws of the U.S. and about the practice of law there, and about the law and practice of law of other countries—through in-class and out-of-class exchanges.
It is easier for a foreign lawyer to join a U.S. LL.M. program than it is for a foreign student to join a U.S. graduate program in virtually all other fields, including business, medicine, engineering, and other educational or advanced degree programs. The LL.M. requires only a minimum of a law degree (or law license) from your home country, TOEFL, and several other academic requirements. You need not take an LSAT, GRE, GMAT or other substantive exam to get admitted to a U.S. LL.M. program. For other U.S. degrees you do need to take certain exams, such as the GRE or GMAT.
Many wish for opportunities to take a break from our current jobs. Maybe we’d like to sit on a beach, climb Mount Everest, write our first novel, or sail around the world. Why not take a break doing something you’ll enjoy, gain valuable experience from, and be able to use to help your career? A 9-month leave from your current job to return to school can be an efficient, fun, and productive way to take a break from your career, while at the same time boosting your career prospects.
During your LL.M. program your “legal English” will automatically improve. You will learn the peculiarities of the English language that facilitate nuanced negotiations. Virtually all classes taught in all U.S. LL.M. programs are in English, with large quantities of reading, writing papers and exams and class discussions also in English.
U.S. lawyers charge clients—particularly corporate clients—substantial fees for services. U.S. corporate clients would prefer lower fees. U.S. entities are increasingly “outsourcing” legal work, hiring overseas lawyers to work for a lower fee. With your U.S. degree you could possibly work in an outsourcing country, such as India.
International LL.M. students stand to learn a great deal during their one-year programs, which generally positively impact lawyering and other post-LL.M. professional activities. You gain an edge on other lawyers in their home countries who do not hold U.S. law degrees.
Though a U.S. LL.M. degree is expensive, the value of the U.S. dollar may be low vis-à-vis your homeland’s currency, making a U.S. LL.M. degree a bargain. It could be a good deal. Earning a U.S. LL.M. is a lifelong, permanent investment.
To be admitted to a U.S. LL.M. program, generally you must hold a J.D. from the U.S., a law degree from another country, or a license to practice law overseas. It is common for U.S. citizens or permanent residents to hold a foreign law degree or law license, but not hold a U.S. J.D. degree. U.S. citizens or permanent residents without a J.D. are motivated by many of the same factors as international students to earn an LL.M.
In 1956, regarding inter-cultural exchanges, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said “If people get together, so eventually will nations.” His and the ideas of many who followed suggest that studying abroad and other exchanges facilitate “understanding and mutual respect between individuals" that “peaceful relations between nations requires”. Senator Fulbright noted that educational and other exchanges across borders bring “more knowledge . . . reason [and] compassion into world affairs and thereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship”.
Studying overseas does help promote global peace and security, and fundamental rights and freedoms. You can do your share to help make the world a better place for current and future generations.
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Professor Edwards is donating all personal profits from sale of the first edition of LL.M. Roadmap to the International Law Students Association (ILSA) (www.ILSA.org), which administers the Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition (White & Case) in 500 law schools in about 100 countries on 6 continents.
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