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Posted Aug. 2, 2015

An International LLM Student’s Experience

My LLM journey was for the most part beautifully chaotic. I had 10 months to adjust to a new city, make new friends, learn to drive on the right side of the road (in Jamaica we drive on the left side of the road) and last but by no means least, complete a Master of Laws degree steeped in American law. 

Luckily for me, my first language is English which isn’t the case for many international students, and like the United States, most countries in the Commonwealth Caribbean have common law legal systems. Therefore, while the approach to legal writing and research had its nuances in the American legal system, I was familiar with basic legal concepts which helped me to hit the ground running immediately.

Although I had planned to do an LLM for over two years, and spent countless hours researching top tier law schools and the respective programs offered by these universities, in hindsight I should have spent more time mapping out my academic journey. Fortunately, most law schools offer a general LLM which allows students to craft their own “concentrations” and focus on courses that truly interest them. This is a good opportunity for students to research courses, consult with professors, read course reviews and talk to students who already took the course. Because most LLM programs are one academic year in duration, it is very important to be calculated.

There are many course options and limited time, as well as limited credit hours. For example if you intend to sit the New York bar, ensure that you take the required courses. It is also important to seek waivers for required courses that you don’t really have to do. For example, if you don’t intend to sit the New York bar you can seek a waiver for courses like Legal Profession.

In addition to ensuring that the courses you select are relevant for your purposes, ensure that you look into externships, clinics, workshops and seminars in advance. Places for these programs are limited and often go fast. This approach is also important for post completion. If you intend to make use of internship opportunities after your LLM, make sure to start applying early, preferably by mid- February. Make use of connections that you made during externships, through professors, networking events, student associations and your career development center.  Linkedin, local bar associations and alumni associations are also useful resources for networking. With only one academic year, it is important to strike a balance between studies and getting involved in activities that may lead to possible employment opportunities.While your LLM program is a period of intense studies, it is also a time for personal development, new experiences, new places and making new friends. Make the best of it!

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