The question is how you as an international student may get the best out of your LL.M. program year? The lecture provides tips and hints on how you achieve maximum benefits from your LL.M. program. How can you achieve your academic, personal, and career goals?
Listed below are some LL.M. Survival and Empowerment lecture suggestions. For more survival & empowerment tips, check out LL.M. Roadmap.
1. Embrace the Socratic Method [link to section on Socratic Method – in section on success in the LL.M. classroom]. This method of U.S. law school instruction may intimidate international LL.M. students, but it presents an opportunity for you to gain an edge in thinking on your feet, analyzing complex issues quickly, and arriving at sound solutions. Leap at the opportunity to practice your lawyerly abilities!
You will learn how to think quickly and arrive at reasonable conclusions. U.S.-trained lawyers are expected to possess this skill!
You can get practice at the Socratic Method from taking courses like BARBRI’s LL.M. Preview.
2. Take advantage of opportunities to gain legal skills. Sometimes this means engaging in non-credit activities outside the classroom. This may interfere with some of your study or leisure time, but it is a worthy investment.
Your U.S. law school should have opportunities for you to do clinical work with real clients, pro bono work research, internships, or other work outside the classroom. You can learn a great deal from hands-on exposure to the law. See # 4 below.
3. Understand who is who at your law school. What is the difference between the following officials at your U.S. law school:
- An Associate Dean, Assistant Dean, Vice Dean and Dean?
- Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor, Clinical Professor, Adjunct Professor or Visiting Professor?
- Program Director, Executive Director, or Associate Director?
If you don’t know who these people are, find out!
Why do you need to know? Each of these faculty / staff members has a set of responsibilities that may affect you as an international LL.M. student. If you have particular needs, desires, or complaints, you need to know whom to contact.
4. Do experiential work outside the classroom. This type of work includes moot court, pro bono project helping indigent clients, or internships / externships. You can gain valuable work legal experience, and also provide assistance to needy people in the community.
See point number 2 above – Take advantage of non-classroom opportunities. If your school does not offer such opportunities, talk with the Dean, Assistant Dean, Program Director or someone else with authority…let them know that you want outside legal experience.
5. Develop friendships / bonds with J.D. students. International LL.M. students may tend to bond closely with other international LL.M. students, particularly those who speak your same language or who may be from your country or region. That is great. But, you should also try to bond with domestic J.D. students!
Your U.S. classmates can learn a great deal from you, and you can learn a great deal from them, including tips on speaking English. And these bonds can last a lifetime!
6. Join law student organizations, participate in extra-curricular activities, and take on leadership roles therein. This will help you develop networks of students and others who share your interests and possibly share your career goals. You and they can exchange ideas that will help you both reach your goals.
Furthermore, when you draft the resume you use to get a post-LL.M. job, it is important to be able to demonstrate that you work well with others, that you have creative interests outside the classroom, and that you have leadership abilities. You can list on your resume your student organization and extra-curricular participation and leadership roles.
Do not be shy!
7. If you detect any dysfunction or deficiencies in your LL.M. program, or if you have a problem . . . do not remain quiet! It does not matter what the nature of the issue is, raise it so that it can be addressed by the appropriate law school staff or faculty member(s). At times schools are not aware of dysfunction or deficiencies at their school or in their programs. If LL.M. students do not mention these problems, they may never get addressed, and you, your classmates, and students who enroll in the future may suffer! Do not suffer in silence.
See the list of law school personnel in # 3 above. Which official will assist you?
8. Join your law school’s alumni association. This is another great way to network with people with whom you share a bond, and who will likely be willing to assist you in reaching your career goals, just as you will be willing to assist them.
9. Ask Questions…Lots of Questions! There is no such thing as a silly question. If you have a question about some aspect of your LL.M. program, chances are great that another LL.M. student has the same or a similar question. Ask!
10. Have Fun! Earning an LL.M. degree is a serious undertaking, requiring a determined, focused attitude. But there is plenty of opportunity for you to enjoy yourself, inside and outside the classroom. Yes, have fun in your LL.M. program!
11. The LL.M. Roadmap author has a list of dozens of additional tips to help you gain as much as possible from your LL.M. program. Check out LL.M. Roadmap for more.
Other tips discussed in LL.M. Roadmap include...
- make certain that your law school protects the human rights of its students
- what steps to take if you think your LL.M. program may be a cash cow or diploma mill
- how to bargain for financial assistance from the school (LLM tuition remission, LLM scholarship), and
- and more!
*This list was adapted from the August 2013 BARBRI LL.M. Preview lecture of Professor George Edwards, author of LL.M. Roadmap: An international Student’s Guide to U.S. Law School Programs (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business) (www.LLMRoadMap.com).