The U.S. LL.M.: From Whether to When, What, Where, and How

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The U.S. LL.M.: From Whether to When, What, Where, and How

By Toni Jaeger-Fine and Desiree Jaeger-Fine

Many foreign law graduates are interested in pursuing a US Master of Laws (LLM) degree but find themselves overwhelmed with the mass of disorganized information spread across various sources.  Deciding to apply for, selecting, and finally pursuing an LLM program can be broken down into simple to follow steps that will make the process so much easier.  Our book, The U.S. LL.M.: From Whether to When, What, Where, and How, shows you how.


The first in a series entitled Mastering the Master (of Laws), this book offers a simple and straightforward guide intended to get you through the process of selecting and applying for an LLM program as efficiently and effectively as possible. This book provides worksheets and easy to follow step-by-step instructions to walk you through the process — from choosing a school and program to submitting your application, awaiting a response.


This book is available for only $2.99 on Amazon and

Desiree is a consultant for foreign legal professional who would like to establish or enhance their careers in the US.  Foreign legal professionals offer singular experiences and skills, but they also face unique challenges in the US.  Being a foreign and New York educated lawyer, Desiree herself experienced the different stages and respective struggles involved in the educational process and developing a career thereafter.


Desiree holds law degrees from both Germany (University of Bonn) and the US (Fordham), from which she graduated with a master degree in Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law.  In Germany, Desiree worked at PriceWaterhouse Coopers and, in New York City, at the United Nations, Ladas & Parry LLP, and the Center on Law and Information Policy (CLIP) at Fordham Law School where she received a post graduate fellowship funded by Google.


Desiree founded LLM-United, the first online networking community for US LLM degree holders, and current and prospective students. The mission is to help navigate the LLM studies and life after.  Allowing members to connect with LLM professionals from all over the world on one single platform, LLM-United is the ultimate networking and resource platform for the master of laws community.


Toni is Assistant Dean for International and Non-J.D. Programs at Fordham Law School, where she is Director of the International Judicial Research and Training Program, Director of Recent Developments in U.S. Law, and Co-Director of the Summer Institute in New York City. She has also served as Director of Graduate and International Programs at Cardozo Law School and as Associate Director of the Global Law School Program at NYU School of Law.


Toni is past chair of the Section on Post-Graduate Legal Education, the Section on International Legal Exchange, and the Section on Legal Education for Foreign Lawyers of the Association of American Law Schools. Toni is also a founding member of the Board of Directors of Lawyers without Borders and is the first American to serve on the Board of the German American Lawyers Association. She was associated with the law firm of Crowell & Moring in Washington, D.C., where her practice focused on commercial and administrative litigation.


A graduate of Duke Law School and the State University of New York, Toni travels extensively and has taught or lectured in numerous countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Italy, Japan, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Peru, P.R. China, Romania, Spain, Taiwan, and Vietnam.


She is the author of numerous articles on a wide range of topics published in the United States and abroad, as well as two other books: American Legal Systems: A Resource and Reference Guide (Lexis 1997) and An Introduction to the Anglo-American Legal System (Thompson 2007), which has been translated into Italian, Korean, and Portuguese. 

LLM is an abbreviation of the Latin Legum Magister, which means Master of Laws.  The LLM is a post-graduate law degree, meaning that those pursuing an LLM degree usually already have successfully completed at least one degree in law in their respective home countries.  Usually, a US LLM is obtained through a one-year program of study at an accredited law school.  Study typically takes place over the course of two semesters: The fall semester, which begins in the second or third week of August and runs until just before Christmas; and the spring semester, which generally begins in the second or third week of January and ends in May.

The LLM is a major investment but there are a variety of compelling reasons to get the US LLM degree.  When you pursue an LLM in the US, you will of course develop a sophisticated and nuanced appreciation of the US legal system, US law, and the way in which a US lawyer would approach legal challenges.  You will also really develop your legal English skills, which are critical for today’s global practice.  Perhaps even more important, when you pursue a US LLM, you become part of a global community where you will meet and interact with law graduates from all over the world.  Each classmate is or will become a legal professional, and they will most likely be spread across the globe.  Networking is something that becomes more and more important as the usual way of applying for jobs and doing business becomes more personal and interactive, and increasingly competitive.  Having a cross-border professional network of lawyers tied together by a common experience is worth a fortune. 

We talk to many current and former LLM students and also travel throughout the world to meet with prospective LLM students.  This gives us an in depth understanding of the struggles that LLM students and prospective students face.  Many LLM students are frustrated by random information from multiple sources, especially the Internet, and the lack of real support for LLM students.  With our series Mastering The Master (of Laws), we seek to change that.  Mastering The Master (of Laws) is a series of books that will cover every aspect of the US LLM, from applying for an LLM, to making the most of the LLM year, to career development after.  In a couple of weeks we publish our next book: Mastering The US Legal System: A Beginners Guide, with Cases and Materials, which we are really excited about.  The book gives a wonderful overview of the US Legal System in the style of a casebook, which is what US students are required to use and which LLM students will have to learn to work with in the US.

Our best advice is to not get intimidated by the task at hand.  One can easily get overwhelmed by all the things that need to be done with regards to choosing a school, compiling the application documents, financing, the program, and spending a year in the US.  We always say that one should enjoy every aspect of this adventure because it is a life experience one will never forget.  Thousands of students have successfully graduated from US LLM programs and there is really no reason why one cannot follow their lead.  Taking one step at a time will make the application process and the move to the US a manageable task.  This is what our book is all about, breaking it down in easy to follow manageable steps.

There are wonderful LLM programs offered worldwide.  However, the foreign legal industry seems to prefer the US LLM, especially over an LLM degree in one’s own country or in one’s own legal system (e.g., civil law).  This is true for a n umber of reasons, one of which is showing that a lawyer is flexible and adaptable enough to live and study in the US for one year.  Of course, this can also be done in any other country, but for example, moving within Europe is quite different than moving from Europe to the US.  Even though many things seem alike, life in the US is quite different.  Experiencing and managing cultural differences and expectations, and understanding the way business is done in the US, combined with acquiring an understanding of US law and the common law system is extremely valuable to many law firms and companies and their clients. Of course,  becoming highly proficient in legal English is also a very highly-valued skill.

Over the next years more LLM programs will be offered in the US, which will make it harder for prospective students to choose the right school and program.  Already established programs will be extended in terms of size and available specialties.    This will give LLM students more and more options, as to US law schools work hard to develop programs that will appeal to a range of international legal professionals.


Nevertheless, prospective students should exercise caution when choosing a school and program.  It should be of the utmost important that the school offers quality programs academically as well as opportunities to develop professionally.  There are quite some differences in the way schools structure and execute their LLM programs and you should choose carefully!


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