LLM GUIDE Blogs
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In my ongoing series of entries on taking the New York bar, I'd like to talk about my experience on studying for the bar and doing it with Kaplan.
First, if you are an LLM student, the review companies will be camping out every week in your school from August until the very last week of class in Spring semester and you don't have to hurry to decide. You'll be receiving discounts for signing up early, but in the end, Barbri will be the most expensive, at around $3000 (this was at 2010).
I signed up with Kaplan, because it was a few hundred dollars cheaper than Barbri and I thought I would be receiving materials of similar quality anyway. I think I made the right decision.
What I liked about Kaplan were the following:
1. Lectures were pre-taped and were available anytime, on demand. If I wanted to have a break on Monday, I could watch the lecture on Sunday. Same thing, if I want to have a break on Monday, I could double up on Tuesday. I understand Barbri videotapes lectures as they are delivered. So you have to wait til after the lecture before you can watch the video online.
2. Books and test banks were of a good quality.
3. They provided a structure. At a certain point, we should be studying a certain material. If you followed that time frame, you'd be doing okay.
4. They had lectures from time to time when they would just reassure you that you're doing okay, give you tips on how to study, logistics in the bar itself. Also, Chris Fromm is awesome.
All that said, if you don't enroll with any company and just study on your own, you might be able to pass too. Some people I know just studied with books that they bought from people who just did the bar, and they did okay.
The biggest problem that LLM students might have with the bar is with any ESL issues. Your school will most likely give you your LLM degree after you pay $50K or so, and even if you bomb your exam, you will probably get a B (I did). But there is no such privilege in the bar exam. People do actually fail. I remember someone who left two essay questions blank in my securities exam and we both got the same grade, even though I finished the entire exam. But those who left a question unanswered in the bar exam generally did not make it. There will be a lot of material to go through especially in the MBE (multiple choice!!!) portion of the exam and if you don't keep to 1.8 minutes per question, you might end up not finishing.
Be assured though that many many LLM graduates, even those with ESL problems, can and do pass the bar exam. It's quite manageable. If you have the extra cash, Barbri and Kaplan will be very helpful. If not, go for it on your own and just study extra hard!
By Johana in Advice for foreign lawyers coming to the U.S. to get graduate degrees (both LL.M & JD) on Jan 28, 2011
(As a foreword, wow, it has been a long time since I last published something here. I am very happy to be back!)
Now, on to the blog.
Recently, looking to further inform my thinking on what might help foreign law students do well during their programs, I've been spending a lot of time reading blogs, articles and books advising American JDs on what to expect.
Although these books are not targeted to foreign students, I figured some of the same advice should apply. After all, a law student is a law student. Right?
Wrong, as it turns out.
Something that strikes me as interesting is that these resources tend to focus (rather copiously, I might add) on how to alleviate incoming student's anxiety about the experience that awaits them.
What is interesting to me is not that incoming American JD students are stressed out about starting law school (that seems completely logical to me), but the fact that foreign law students tend to come into the experience entirely at ease.
As I recall from observing incoming LL.Ms during my law school days at Northwestern (and as confirmed by many of the alumni I have interviewed over the years), incoming LL.M students(1) tend to feel confident (or let me rephrase, overly confident) about how well they'll do during their programs. After all, they've already gone to law school, right?
So, they come into the first day of class (generally after either skipping orientation, or spacing out during the sessions) feeling self-assured and stress-free.
For the first few weeks, you can see them chatting amicably with their classmates over lunch and strolling leisurely through the campus grounds. What a contrast from their JD counterparts! (And from how they themselves look only a few weeks later, unfortunately).
Don't get me wrong; there is nothing bad about feeling confident about yourself and your abilities. Hey, I am a firm believer in cultivating one's self-esteem.
But time and time again, LL.M alumni mention that, in retrospect, they came in thinking the program was going to be a breeze, or that based on their previous success at home (both academically and professionally) they weren't going to struggle --and time and time again, they are proven wrong.
Many recall that at the outset their thinking went along the lines of "Worry? About what? Leave that to the inexperienced JDs. I'm already a lawyer (a successful lawyer, in fact) elsewhere. I have been through law school before. How different can it be?"
Well, particularly if you are a Civil Lawyer, how about very different.
In fact, LL.M alumni from Civil Law traditions tend to report that they felt as though they were learning the law for the first time, due to the striking differences in approach and analysis of legal issues.
It's not that students don't ultimately get it. They do, and in fact, some end up getting high marks. (A brief aside: one of the rarely mentioned benefits of having a single, end-of-term examination that accounts for 100% of your grade is that you have a little wiggle room to figure things out before you are actually graded).
It's the confusion (and eventually, apprehension) students must endure until they finally get it.
But what exactly is there to get?
The first thing to know is that coming to the experience a little more humbly and a lot more open to actually discovering something new about the law is an essential part of the learning process.
Also, it helps to know that (at first) you'll probably have to set aside much of your previous training and knowledge to make room for those new learnings to set in. Letting go of what you know and actually being open to learning from scratch helps understand case law and common law reasoning much more effectively. (Of course, once you have gone through the LL.M, you'll be able to integrate all you know into a comprehensive landscape that incorporates what you brought to the table prior to the program).
So, if you are a Civil Lawyer who's about to embark on an LL.M program this year, here's a word of advice from countless others who have gone before you: Sure, you are a successful lawyer at home; yes, you know your stuff (heck, you may even be a Law professor at home) but don't be taken aback if the course work is a bit more challenging (and the approach to issues very different) from what you are expecting it to be.
I'm not advocating fear or anxiety, by any means; that would be silly.
What I do encourage is an openness to be surprised by an entirely different approach to the law, which may turn out to be as counter-intuitive as it is interesting.
In other words, approach the experience of getting your LL.M as an actual opportunity to learn and a unique chance to view the law from a different perspective, instead of merely seeing it as a vehicle to boost your credentials.
If you do, you'll walk away with way more than a degree. You'll walk away a changed lawyer.
(1) A note: The above is more applicable to LL.M students than it is to foreign JD students. Foreign students pursuing a US JD tend to approach the experience much more like their American classmates.
*Johana M. Gomez has a JD from Northwestern University & an LL.B from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. She shares her thoughts and experience through LL.M Studio, a resource for foreign lawyers thinking about pursuing graduate legal studies in the U.S. For more info, please see Johana's LL.M Guide profile (http://www.llm-guide.com/about/Johana) or her lawyrs.net profile (http://www.lawyrs.net/profile/johana-m-gomez).
at this point, i think my LLM story has come to an end, with the bar exam results and my new job starting soon. so this means i'll be posting a few entries on the bar exam and job hunt.
let's start with the bar exam. some important news that foreign educated candidates should know is that beginning feb 2011, the exam fee for foreign educated candidates will be $750. i paid $250 for my own bar exam (july 2010) but beginning feb 2010, all foreign educated candidates will need to pay $750. if the candidate doesn't pass the exam and wants to retake the exam the fee is also $750. see http://www.nybarexam.org/
my guess on what is behind this change is that the law job market being bad, especially in new york, the state bar probably wants to protect the graduates from local (US) law schools to ensure they don't have to compete with foreigners on those jobs that are available.
i think this isn't really a good reason though, because many LLMs just take the new york bar exam to get that final stamp of US qualification, or even a "souvenir", and not really in order to practice law in new york.
it remains to be seen whether this will discourage foreign educated candidates from taking the new york bar exam. the fee to take the california bar exam is roughly the same ($584 + $132 for laptop fee). many foreigners who do LLMs do the LLM in new york, and it will be easier to just continue on and take the exam in new york and not worry about housing issues anymore, rather than to uproot and take the exam in california. the increased fees though, will most likely discourage repeat takers.
next time, i'll write about barbri and kaplan, and my own experiences during bar review (a.k.a. the glorious summer when i saw ballet 3x a week).
There have been a few articles published recently about the value of an LL.M.
An interesting National Law Journal piece by Karen Sloan has examined the LL.M. as a credential with hard-to-measure value.
Above The Law's Elie Mystal argues it is rather a case of nobody bothering to measure the impact of LL.M. on graduates' employment or salary. And this lack of clear measurement, Mystal suggests, is a situation that law schools seem satisfied with.
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog also picked up the issue here.
The original NLJ article focuses on how the LL.M. affects a lawyers' resume in the United States. This is a very important point to examine. But it's also important to consider why many foreign lawyers pursue an LL.M. in the US (or the UK, Canada, Australia, for that matter). Sure, some foreign lawyers will look for jobs in the United States when they finish the LL.M. Only few will find them.
But many foreign lawyers have no intention of staying beyond the LL.M. For a lot of these folks, the value of an LL.M. is more about sharpening/proving legal English skills, acquiring international experience, punctuating their resume with a prestigious law school, passing a US bar exam, and - in some cases - getting deeper into a specialization. These are all factors that can boost a lawyer's resume when he or she returns home to Germany, Spain, China, Brazil, or wherever.
We will be publishing some more on this shortly. Stay tuned.
What do you think?
By PUCCA in UCL LLM 2009/2010 experience. Right from the beginning until graduation! on Sep 6, 2010
Im very very happy because I submitted my dissertation on August 31st around 11 am. It was due September 1st but I had planned a trip around Escandinavia with my mother who came from Panama to visit me on August 27 so I decided to submit it one day before the due date. And well i also did not wanted to submit it the same day as most people because it would be a caos! Im so glad i finish i cannot express my excitement! :)
Right now Im just enjoying a good vacation with my mom. We are in Oslo today and I have been relaxing a lot!
Well thats it for now. I was told the results would be available at the end of October so wish me luck. If you have any questions please write me and i will do my best to help you! bye byeeeee
By PUCCA in UCL LLM 2009/2010 experience. Right from the beginning until graduation! on Aug 25, 2010
I havent written in a while since Ive been very busy with my dissertation. Im reviewring it right now and took a few minutes to let you know that Im done with it. I will submit it next Tuesday to the Graduate Office,,,,i will write again when i do it :)
its been a really stressfull year but also a great one!
So, who is starting an LL.M. this autumn? If you answered "yes," congratulations! We hope you have a great year ahead of you.
Wherever you're going, why not share some of your experiences with the LLM GUIDE community by blogging about them?
If you've used LLM GUIDE recently, chances are you've had a chance to follow the adventures of michaelcorleone at Columbia, PUCCA at UCL, and LLM85 at KCL. Even LLM GUIDE blogging legends like tmalmine and ivan2006 check in with updates from time to time.
This spirit of sharing is what helps keep this community such an informative resource for prospective students.
Sure, brochures are nice and all, but nothing beats real experiences from real people. Right?
Look, we know you'll be busy. But it's not like you have to write very much; just a few lines every now and then. And since these posts get read by thousands of prospective students each month, blogging on LLM GUIDE could be one of the most glorious moments of your legal career...at least until you make partner.
Here are a few topics that LLM GUIDE bloggers have covered in their posts in recent years:
* Why they picked their program
* Career goals
* The application process
* Impressions of the school, city and/or classmates
* Favorite / least favorite LL.M. classes
* Social life (sometimes in hilarious detail)
* Job hunting
* Class discussions
Anyway, I hope to be reading about your adventures soon!
Take care, and have a great rest of the summer,
The study of law in the United States is unlike that in most other countries. First of all, the basic law degree, the Juris Doctor ("JD"), is considered a graduate level professional degree and students enter the program already possessing a college diploma. With the exception of a mandatory introduction course covering the basics of U.S. law, LL.M. students generally take classes alongside their J.D. counterparts. Depending on the policies of the school, special LL.M. seminars may also be offered, but may be open to J.D. students as well.
Secondly, American legal education is far more participatory than the traditional lecture method used in civil law education. Rather than relying on scholarly treatises, American law schools use the "case method" -- studying casebooks containing actual court decisions to derive legal rules. Moreover, professors have traditionally used the "Socratic" method of teaching in which the professor asks a series of questions thereby guiding the student toward the correct responses. All students are expected to read the assignments and take part in discussions. Many professors consider class participation to be an integral component of the final class grade.
A word about assigned readings. The necessity of reading English quickly and with good comprehension cannot be over-stressed in order to succeed in graduate study in the United States. Typical reading assignments may range between fifteen and sixty pages per class. I have had international friends tell me that the most difficult part of their LL.M. experience was trying to complete all the reading assignments.
American law school classes are taught either as lecture courses, or smaller seminar courses. Lecture courses may range in size from approximately fifteen people for a specialized course such as Admiralty or Conflict of Laws to perhaps sixty or more for a class such as Secured Transactions or Corporations. Lecture courses, particularly those which have a large number of J.D. students, generally are taught using the Socratic method and have a single examination at the end of the course which determines the grade. The larger the course, the more likely it is that it will be taught by a full-time faculty member, rather than by a practicing lawyer who teaches as an adjunct professor.
Seminar courses, on the other hand, have fewer students, and treat a specialized topic in greater depth, consequently the reading assignments may be somewhat longer and students are expected to participate more often. Seminars are graded either on the basis of final exams or through the preparation and presentation of original research papers, as well as classroom participation. Some professors will also agree to sponsor directed research projects.
Research and writing is an essential component of graduate legal education in the United States. In addition to shorter papers which are written for seminars, most law schools require some sort of graduate thesis of substantial length. This is the single most time-consuming part of the LL.M. and it is wise to have a topic in mind and work consistently on the paper throughout the semester or semesters in which it is assigned. Students prepare their graduate thesis for a supervising professor who is available to offer advice. Because the graduate thesis is so central to the LL.M. program, students with a particular research interest would do well to determine if the school has the resources available to facilitate their research. There is perhaps nothing more frustrating than conducting research and discovering the library has either very little material on the subject, or what it has is far out of date. Thankfully, the Internet has simplified international legal research to a significant degree, however, a well-stocked law library with knowledgeable staff makes your job easier. Many LL.M. students revise their thesis and submit them for publication to American law journals.
Final examinations are a necessary evil. In law schools, examinations are generally presented as essay questions, rather than multiple choice tests. A typical law school exam consists of three one-hour questions, each of which sets out a fact pattern and asks specific questions that are to be addressed in an essay. These exams are comprehensive and generally test all the areas covered in the lectures. Some professors permit the students to bring written materials into the examination room and others require the exams to be "closed book", that is, taken without the benefit of any reference materials. The professors will make their policies clear, and failure to abide by the examination rules is considered a violation of the school's honor code -- a very serious infraction. Examinations are timed, and while some schools permit additional time for international students whose native language is not English, others do not. Again, the ability to read and write legal English is key to success in American law schools. For representative examples of American law school examinations, take a look at the International Business Transactions exams posted by Professor Peter Winship of the S.M.U. Law School.
This article was written by David A. Levy, former Kronstein Research Fellow at the International Law Institute. It is intended as an overview of graduate legal study in the U.S. and is based solely on the opinion of the author.
This article is intended to provide information for international students who are considering the study of law in the United States. It is based on my experiences at three law schools with significant LL.M. programs, Southern Methodist University, the Washington College of Law at American University, and Georgetown University Law Center, as well as my work as a lecturer at the International Law Institute's Orientation in the U.S. Legal System course. Part one discusses the graduate law experience in American law schools and considers such issues as American teaching techniques, class selections, and examinations and research papers. Part two discusses bar review courses and provides information about state bar examinations. Finally, part three discusses programs which are available to help prepare you for the study of law in the United States.