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Studying for an LLM (Master of Laws) in California

Studying for an LLM (Master of Laws) in California

California located in the Western USA and bordered by Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, Mexico and the Pacific Ocean is the largest state in the USA by population (over 39 million inhabitants) and the third largest in terms of the area. Nicknamed as the ‘Golden State’ which traces back to the discovery of gold and fields of golden poppies and also recognized as the entertainment capital of the world due to the presence of Hollywood, California has on offer everything from the glamorous Hollywood, famous Disneyland, sandy beaches, soothing waves, Mediterranean climate, developed infrastructure, accredited and internationally recognized educational institutions. It’s a very attractive pace to love which is why statistics continuously demonstrate increased number of international students in California with institutions such as University of Southern California, Stanford University, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Berkeley showing the largest enrollment rates of international students in the USA!    

American singer and actress Beth Anderson’s quote about California aptly summarises why so many students from across the globe as well as other states in America feel drawn to study here…"Everything is just better in California - the wine, the food, fruits and vegetables, the comforts of living. Even the instrumentalists are generous and curious. Everything is wonderful".

LLM in California

The statistical figures are also suggestive of the diversity of the student population at universities in the state of California. Due to the mild climate and varied topography, Americans from across the USA commonly choose to study in California and therefore there are plenty of opportunities to encounter traditional American culture as well as interact with the local population. There is a large Hispanic and Latino population as well as international students commonly from countries such as China, India, Taiwan and Japan. This makes California a mosaic to various ethnicities and diverse cultures which will significantly enhance and enrich your experiences outside the classroom. It is commonly said that for international students there is more to learn outside the classroom than inside the classroom, therefore studying in California guarantees that your learning experiences will extend well beyond the reach of the academic curriculum!   

Where & what to study in California

Some institutions offering an LLM course in California include: University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), University of California, Davis, California Western School of Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law, Lewis & Clark College, Loyola Law School, Loyola Marymount University, Pepperdine UniversityUniversity of San Francisco School of LawUniversity of Southern California, Southwestern Law School, Stanford University, Santa Clara University, Golden Gate University, University of San Diego.

There is also a wide range of specialisations available to choose from whether you are looking for a commercial specialisation or want to edge towards health or family laws, some are Securities Regulation, International Commercial Law, Taxation, US Legal Studies, Health Law, Child and Family Law, Environmental Law, Intellectual Property Law, Business and Corporate Governance law. Students can also benefit as the cities in California are center for various industries and the universities have links with various businesses providing excellent networking and internship opportunities.

LLM in California

A law student’s perspective

When Amrita Joshi, a law student from California Western School of Law, was asked about her experience of studying for the LLM in California, she remarked,

“Before my course started I flew out early to spend time at the exotic beaches, eat a lot of American fast food (which is a must despite the calories that come with it!) but most importantly spend a glamorous day nowhere other than Hollywood! It is a dream come true but my advice to prospective students would be to not be fooled by all that as the course is intense and requires dedication. However, the tutors are very good and super enthusiastic. They are genuinely interested in our learning and feedback."

Californian law school alumni

California is home to some of the most renowned and highly respected academic institutions worldwide and amongst the alumni of these institutions are many successful names, such as the famous attorney Jesse Jackson who attended University of California Berkeley Boalt Hall Law School, US Senator, Jeff Bingaman and former Secretary of State, Warren Christopher who attended Stanford law school and Michael Anthony Powell, the famous athlete from UCLA.

Applications & admissions

LLM in CaliforniaWhile it may be easier to get into the lower schools in California, the top law schools in the USA are quite competitive and will receive a large number of admission applications, therefore a high standard will be expected from your admission application and previous academic performance to gain admission into the LLM programmes. All foreign candidates must hold a first degree in law from a university recognised by the American Bar Association or its foreign equivalent and must demonstrate proof of their English language proficiency b submitting TOEFL scores (as compared to the IELTS or Cambridge exam result. The schools will specify the minimum score required which is often 600 on the paper exam, 250 on the computer-based exam).

In terms of the application procedure your admission application should include an application form (usually completed electronically), application fee, curriculum vitae, personal statement, letters of recommendation, official transcripts and TOEFL score report.

Tuition fees & living costs in California

The cost of studying in California is quite high and tuition fees for the LLM ranges from $35,000 to $55,000 depending on the institution of your choice. However, this is an estimated average range and the cost may be less or more for some institutions. The fees is also subject to annual increment, therefore you are strongly advised to check the fees for your intended year of study. Similarly living expenses vary according to the lifestyle but a student may wish to set aside an annual budget of $50,000 for accommodation, food, books and other personal expenses. While some institutions offer financial aid and scholarships, there is little financial help available generally for the LLM programme and students are expected to have sufficient funds to finance their course and to satisfy the visa clearance officer regarding proof of funding. Seeking part time work may also be a potential option but you must comply with all terms and conditions of your entry visa which only permits students to work for 20 hours a week. You should also bear in mind that the rigours of a master’s course may not leave sufficient time for working.        

What to do when you aren’t studying

While life on the university campus is itself exciting with various opportunities to socialise such as jazz nights, concerts, theatre events, even Halloween parties, life does not end on the gates of the campus and there is plenty to do and explore in the cities in California. Southern California is an ideal place with its surrounding rocky mountains, coastal regions and relaxed beach culture to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, rock climbing, surfing, whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, mount biking and amusement parks. If you have an adventurous spirit then you will surely feel California calling out to you.

What other US states can you study in?

There are plenty of LLM opportunities for those interested in the living and studying in the United States and we have essential LLM study guides to over 20 US states, including:


Featured institutions

BerkeleyBerkeley Law, University of California


Golden Gate University Golden Gate University School of Law


Lewis and ClarkLewis & Clark Law School


Pepperdine University Pepperdine University 


UCLAUCLA School of Law


San Diego University University of San Diego School of Law


University of San Francisco University of San Francisco School of Law


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