There isn’t any one particular reason why one wants to do an LL.M. There are multiple ones, and each one is motivation enough for people to apply. Some students wish to experience a new legal system altogether (common law v. civil law) while others wish to specialize in an area that they can build upon in their home country. An LL.M can also be a respectable qualification to have if you are looking at academia by getting into teaching. Let’s look at some of the reasons in detail:
Being Dual Qualified
An LL.M or 24 credits will make you eligible to sit for the NY bar or the California bar exam. The advantage of having this qualification is that it can increase your visibility to international or magic circle law firms that often have lawyers who are dual qualified. The NY bar exam is a difficult exam for foreign qualified lawyers to clear, and thus is a symbol of an accomplishment for an LL.M student. Many students use their OPT period to work in the US after clearing the bar before going onto their home countries. The NY or California bar can be an attractive option especially if there is a law firm with branches in the US as well as your home country.
Experiencing A New Legal System
Often LL.M’s coming from a civil law background will find the common law system of adjudication in the US a bit odd. But it is essentially this kind of experience that LL.M’s seek in order to boost their knowledge about the different legal systems of the world. Some students even write research papers and a thesis under reputed faculty (arbitration, comparative constitutional law) to build their academic credentials. A publication in a journal can look very good on your resume. Often looking at laws in different legal systems can be helpful if one is looking to teach comparative courses later on in their home country. It can also be helpful to potential policymakers that wish to influence domestic policies after having studied laws in different jurisdictions.
Choosing A Specialization
A debate amongst applicants is whether to do a general LL.M or choose a specialization. Some students decide to opt for a general LL.M so that they can have the flexibility to take the classes they want or customize their LL.M curriculum in order to choose classes to help them clear the bar exams. Other students decide to choose a specialization, which usually comes with a certain set of credits that have to be completed. Thus, choosing a specialization does not offer the same level of flexibility as the general LL.M in choosing courses. However, it may be an attractive option for law firms that are looking to hire people who are dedicated to a particular practice area or field of the law. Having said that, choosing a specialization may also limit you in some way, as then one cannot be a generalist and must take courses that are related to your specialization. There is no correct choice — it just depends on your career choices and preferences after your LL.M.
The LL.M can be a rewarding year where one makes friends and professional contacts that can last a lifetime. Not only is it a fulfilling two semesters, but also a transformative one. So whatever your reason may be, if it’s right for you, do not hesitate to apply and enjoy this opportunity to experience a new legal system for a year!
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