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Studying for an LLM (Master of Laws) in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is located in the north eastern part of the United States, in the Great Lakes region. It is bounded to the north by Lake Erie and New York state; to the east by New Jersey; to the south by Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia; and to the west by Ohio.The capital city is Harrisburg although Pittsburgh and Philadelphia – which is the largest city in Pennsylvania – are perhaps the two best known cities in the state.
Where & what to study
Universities in Pennsylvania that offer LLM programs include:
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Some of these universities offer a general LLM; at University of Pennsylvania there is a choice of either a research of taught general LLM course, in addition to specialist LLMs in International Law, Securities and Banking Law, Trade Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Corporate Law and Intellectual Property and the Internet. Two institutions, Temple University and University of Pittsburgh, offer LLMs specially designed for foreign law graduates. At Temple you can also find courses in Taxation Law, Transnational Law and Trial & Advocacy. Widener University offers LLMs in Corporate & Finance Law and Health Law as well as opportunities for students to study abroad. Villanova has LLMs in Taxation Law and International Studies. Pennsylvania’s law schools have produced several notable alumni including state Governors, members of Congress, professors, broadcasters and Supreme Court judges of several countries including Australia, Egypt, Israel and the United States.
What to do when you aren't studying
The stunning Pocono Mountains and the Great Lakes provide the outdoorsy types with opportunities to ski, play golf or indulge in water sports. You could travel back in time on an old rail car or go hot air ballooning. There are also historical sites such as Lancaster County, where you can see and experience how Amish communities live or you could spend the day at theme parks such as Hershey Park, at the theatre, museums or out shopping and dining.
Law student's perspective
“The legal system in America is different from ours back home so I sometimes felt challenged but I’m glad I took the decision to stretch myself out of my comfort zone as it will make me a better lawyer. I have also made friendships for life, with people from all over the world”
Michael Davidson, UK resident and US law student
Fluency in English
Practically all universities stress the importance of fluency in English. The University of Pennsylvania Law School advises candidates that it uses the Socratic method of teaching which it states requires “mastery of the English language.” The Socratic method essentially involves rapid question and answer sessions to improve skills in critical thinking and analysis. Applicants are expected to include English test results as part of their application, usually TOEFL (the Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System), but it’s a good idea to find out which test your preferred institution requires and importantly, what the minimum acceptable scores are. Some institutions require students whose native language is not English to undergo an English language program prior to starting the LLM. You’ll likely be exempt from English language requirements if your first degree was obtained in a country where the native language is English and the language of instruction at the university was English (e.g. the UK, Canada or Australia.)
First degree in law
A first degree in law is required. If you studied in America, you would need to have a JD (Juris Doctor) before applying for an LLM. If you earned your first degree outside the United States then an LLB (first degree in law) or the equivalent is required. However, the University of Pennsylvania may accept applicants who do not have a first degree in Law but have relevant professional or academic careers.
You will have to submit transcripts; make sure you find out whether the institution wants them sent directly to them from your university as some institutions – for example University of Pittsburgh – will not accept transcripts that have been handled by the applicant.
A personal statement outlining why you’ve chosen to study at their institution is also required, as well as strong letters of recommendation from references that can attest to your academic achievements and potential. Some institutions request CVs (resumes.)
Meet application deadlines
Remember to also confirm the application deadline, as it sometimes varies depending on whether you’re a US resident or international student. Also check with the institution to find out whether you’d have to take an admissions test such as the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) We’ve got some useful advice about applying for an LLM here.
Every state has a bar association with its own rules and guidelines so if you got your first law degree outside the US and you’re planning to take the bar exam after your LLM it’s important to find out whether you would be eligible to take the bar exam. Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law offers an extension of studies from the standard two semesters to three, for students wishing to study for a bar exam.
Tuition fees & living costs
Tuition fees range from $25,000 to over $50,000, depending on the university’s ranking. Most are in the $36,000 to $40,000 range. Living costs depend on the cities as the cost of accommodation and transport may vary. For instance in Pittsburgh students are entitled to travel for free on the bus if they have a valid student ID card. Most institutions in Pennsylvania estimate that the average cost of living is $20,000 for the year, bringing the total cost of an LLM in Pennsylvania to between $45,000 and $70,000. Financial aid, scholarships, grants and student loans are available for US citizens and, in some cases, private funding is available to international students. Find out from each institution what specific funding you might be eligible for. Click here for more general information on fees and funding.
Visa requirements for international students
If you’re an international student who requires a visa to study in the United States you would, as part of your visa application, need to submit a letter from the university confirming your admission to the LLM program, evidence that you have funds available to cover your tuition and living costs (or proof that your application for a grant or scholarship was successful), evidence of accommodation arrangements and the all important health insurance. Do check with the US embassy in your country as visa requirements may vary.
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: