Posted Oct. 30, 2015
American universities continue to attract more and more students each year with their wide range of popular LLM programs. Students are attracted by the diverse options that they can choose from across a variety of legal disciplines – from maritime law to environmental justice, and from air and space law to antitrust law. Visiting the US to study your LLM program has several other advantages including the chance to see and explore new places, and make new legal contacts.
Some of the most popular LLM course options available in the US include:
• Traditional or General LLM
• LLM in Competition, Innovation and Information Law
• LLM in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
• LLM in Environmental Law
• LLM in Corporate Law
• LLM in International Taxation
• LLM in Legal Theory
• JD/LLM in International Law
To study an LLM in the USA, candidates must ideally have earned a first degree in law from their home country law school. International students are required to show proof of language proficiency. Candidates must submit an application, recommendation letter(s), academic transcripts, English-language proficiency, as in a recent TOEFL, IELTS, ILEC or as specified by the university. Once admitted, you will be required to present a letter of credit from a bank or other lending institution showing you have sufficient financial support to study in the US.
Once you accept an offer from a US university, the next step is to apply for a visa. As an international student you will need an F1 category visa. Make sure you read the instructions that are shared with you by the university to finish the process in time. Also make note of visa application process through your local US embassy office and USCIS website.
As you may be aware the process of applying for and receiving a US student visa could be time-consuming and a drain on resources depending on the visa process in your home country. Universities usually advise international students to submit their LLM applications in advance rather than wait until deadline dates, so that they have enough time to work on visa documentation. Some universities accept US LLM applications twice a year for spring or the fall entries. Check the deadline dates on the university’s website early on and prepare a schedule so you know the kind of documents that you will need to collate for completing your applications. It is advisable to start the process early so you can deal with any doubts and questions in time to submit your application.
To be considered for an LLM program in the USA, an applicant must have a JD (Juris Doctor) from an accredited US law school or a first law degree (JD, LLB or the equivalent) from an overseas law school. Some universities may require you to have a minimum period of prior experience in the legal profession to study a particular LLM program.
Since criteria can be set quite high depending on the university’s ranking it is important that you show credentials that stand out from other applications. University selections could take into account past law grades, ranks, letters of recommendation, professional recommendations, accomplishments, co-curricular interests, etc. and several other factors that include demonstrating the candidate’s interest and commitment to undertaking the LLM program.
Legal education in the US can be expensive and US university websites make no bones about it. If you don’t find fee details advertised on the university website, request for it so that you can get an idea of how much you will need to set aside for the fee. This is in addition to the other costs that you would incur to be able to live and study in the US. For instance, a year in Harvard Law School’s LLM program can cost around $57,000 in tuition fees alone. This would be in addition to health insurance, LLM activities fee, dental insurance, the costs of housing, food, books and supplies, and personal and travel expenses.
But despite the potentially high costs, the USA undeniably ranks as a top destination for LLM applicants – here are some reasons why:
1. Students may wish to advance their legal studies by applying to universities that employ prominent academics who convene subject-specific LLM programs. Some examples are the University of Mississippi in Air and Space Law or the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Health Law, Policy, & Bioethics. Students who are able to demonstrate their intent of contributing to academia in their home countries are in a strong position to secure admission to such courses.
2. International lawyers may be interested in getting up-to-date in current developments in specialised areas such as international taxation, intellectual property or commercial arbitration to grow within their own organisations and sharing their acquired knowledge by way of advice to multinational clients.
3. On the other hand international lawyers may be keen on doing an LLM in the US so that they can take the bar exam from New York or California. Doing an LLM is a great introduction to the US legal system.
4. The US is also a top destination for non-legal professionals to do an LLM so that they gain knowledge of topics that may not be available in their own jurisdictions.
5. There is a lot of interest among international students to work for international organisations such as the UN to undertake law or policy assignments in areas such as human rights, development, refugee issues or climate change. You could apply for specialised LLM degrees in the US that may meet your interests. For instance NYU School of Law offers a dynamic program in international law and global governance where students can benefit from being located in New York (with its proximity to the United Nations).
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