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How to choose a US Law School for your LLM program

For students who want to study for an LLM degree in a US law school, the amount of choice can be overwhelming. Although you are likely to have an idea of what course you want to undertake, the number of LLM providers is huge and selecting the right one takes time.

Whether you are coming to the US from abroad to study as an international student, or you are a US resident, the location
of the school, the prospects you’ll have as a graduate and the school’s reputation are all significant factors. And this is even true if you are planning to study your postgraduate law program online at a US law school. Your financial circumstances, academic abilities and sporting interests will also be relevant to the choices you make, but in the initial stages the most important thing to get right is your subject.

Choosing US law school

Play to your strengths

If you are planning to study an LLM in the USA and are torn between one or more specialisms, use your past performance to gauge which could be the best area of law to study. Think about what you excelled at as an undergraduate and allow that to guide you when selecting an LLM program. You’ll be working on your Master of Laws for a year (if studying full time – longer if you opt for a part-time course) and the topic will probably be relevant to your future job, so it has to be something you enjoy.

Consider what interests you

Any shortlist should be limited to the subjects which fire you up and are within your preferred practice area. No student wants to spend a year tied into a program which doesn’t stimulate them, so look back over your undergraduate degree and work experience to identify which issues you want to pursue in greater depth. Alternatively, if you are committed to moving up the career ladder, which topics could be most beneficial and help you reach your goals faster?

Which type of course is best for you?

Some US law schools, like the University of Wisconsin, offer students the chance to work independently towards their LLM qualification. These LLM by Research courses are based on writing and research, with no classroom hours. They can take two years to complete and suit people with the discipline to study alone. The more common route to gaining an LLM is through a taught course, this option offers a more social environment and is ideal for law graduates who want to develop their knowledge with a supportive cohort group.

Finding the right US law school

One easy way to gain an overview of the various law schools in the US is by examining the rankings tables. These well-researched reports rate schools depending on various factors, including employability on graduation, projected salary, academic reputation and course fees. However, tables are no substitute for reading a schools prospectus, learning about the programs on offer and visiting the campus on an open day.

Visit different law schools

If possible it is a great idea to visit the individual law schools so you can really get an idea of what it would be like to study there. Some universities will even allow prospective students to sit in on certain lectures, this is an excellent way to get a feel for the place and find out what to expect if you become a student. Not everyone has the time or funds to visit every law school they intend to apply to, so many now offer online tours and video presentations, and these do provide a sense of the campus atmosphere.

Investigate the program’s reputation

If everything else falls into place, investigate the school’s reputation for delivering the program you are hoping to enrol on. US News and the Law School Admissions Council are both excellent sources of information relating to courses, standards of teaching and overall reputation.

It’s not all about studying

Devoting a year of your life, possibly relocating and giving up an existing job are all pretty momentous life changes, so be sure to uncover what the social side of your chosen school has to offer. Student life can be stressful, so the ways in which you can be active on or off the campus, away from your academic commitments, will make a difference. Find out about the kinds of sports on offer, which societies or clubs are the most active and if the school has any links to the local community. When a university has good relationships with local law firms, its students may have the opportunity to experience a more vocation side to their chosen course, or use these partnerships as a stepping stone in their career.

Professional opportunities

Seek out programs which offer appealing professional opportunities. For legal professionals, the potential of an LLM to improve their future career is an important consideration. Will the program shape and prepare you for the pathway you hope to pursue and will this area of law give you access to the firms you’d eventually like to work for?

In conclusion…

Making a final decision will not be easy, but when you have all the relevant information to hand, plus an idea of what you hope to achieve by completing an LLM, you’ll be in a better position to choose the right law school and enjoy the kind of career you hope for.


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