The #Admission interviews: Prof. Margareth Etienne, Illinois College of Law

Margareth Etienne - professor of law

Prof. Margareth Etienne / Illinois College

The Admission Interviews (AI) are meant to provide prospective LLM applicants with first-hand information on the LLM application process. In this edition of AI, Amicus Partners speaks to Professor Margareth Etienne, the associate dean for graduate and international programs at the Illinois College of Law.

In this interview, Prof. Etienne discusses several aspects of the LLM application process – right from how one should go about choosing a law school, what should one write in the Statement of Purpose, the JSD option, and a whole lot more.

So, let’s start from the start – how early should applicants begin the LLM application process?

Students should start investigating and doing their research into different law schools probably in the Spring (March-June) before they want to apply.

And as for the applications themselves, they should begin that process by September because there is a lot to prepare. They have to, in some instances, take an English proficiency exam, arrange finances or apply for funding, obtain letters of recommendation from faculty members or employers, and so on.

Each school’s application may be slightly different. It is important to find out what the law school requires for the application process, and you should give yourself about 3-4 months for this.

How do you think LLM applicants should choose a law school?

There are several factors applicants should consider. I would focus on the faculty and the curriculum. Too many international students rely on rankings. Not only are rankings imperfect proxies for quality, but the reality is that rankings are largely based on the JD program and not the international programs. They consider factors such as the LSAT and GPA of the incoming class ore the job placements figures for JD students. These often have little to do with the LLM or JSD program.

Not only are rankings imperfect proxies for quality, but the reality is that rankings are largely based on the JD program and not the international programs. They consider factors such as the LSAT and GPA of the incoming class ore the job placements figures for JD students.  These often have little to do with the LLM or JSD program.

There are a lot of programs that focus on the JD course and do not really have a good program for LLM students. So, you might have a good experience, but it does not necessarily mean you will.

Take seriously instead the areas of expertise or subject matter concentrations that the law school is known for. I would also look at the faculty to student ratio. It is easy to get lost in a large school.

And I would finally look at the location. This is important for many reasons – for example, the costs of living – do you want an American campus experience or a large city experience? Most international students don’t have cars, so they should know how close they have to live to the school, how is the public transportation etc.

Location is also important because you may want to go to a part of the country that you would not otherwise see. After all, [an LLM] is also a chance to experience a different culture.

What do you look for in an applicant’s personal statement?

I look for the student’s motivation. Why do they want to come to Illinois? Are they familiar with our faculty and our strengths in technology or constitutional law or corporate law? Do they know anything specific about the law school? Or are they writing one generic statement simply because they want to spend a year aboard?

I am much more interested in the student who can connect their decision to seek an LLM to something in their background, or their work experience.

And the last thing I look for is whether this is someone I am going to be proud one day to call a law school alum. The short-term view is what kind of students they will be, but the long-term view is what kind of alum will they be.

And the last thing I look for is whether this is someone I am going to be proud one day to call a law school alum. The short-term view is what kind of students they will be, but the long-term view is what kind of alum will they be.

Is this someone who will go out and do different things? Will she think about new ways of approaching a legal problem? What is her future trajectory? A personal statement that can demonstrate these elements is a strong statement.

How do you think applicants should plan for their finances?

I would say first look for schools that have an application fee waiver. Second, when you are considering the total cost of the experience including the full cost of living and not just the tuition. When you are applying for the visa, you have to show you possess the finances that cover the full cost.

Therefore, students should be wise consumers.

Also, look for a school that has significant scholarships and also what is your likelihood of getting this scholarship. As an administrator I may have to choose between allocating 5 full scholarships or 10 half scholarships. So, you want to look at both the amount and number of scholarships.

At Illinois, over 80% of our student receive scholarships, and many of our scholarships are about 50% but not all of them. We are known for being a great bargain for a great education because we invest in top international students.

Illinois College of Law has an option for students to complete the LLM in three semesters instead of two. How does that work?

One of the things we pride ourselves is the flexibility of our LLM program. Students can begin in fall or begin in January. They can complete the LLM in two semesters or choose to finish in three semesters.

Now, some students apply for the three-semester option at the outset while others come here and then choose to extend their coursework in order to study for the bar or improve their practice or language skills. It really depends on the student.

What do you think are the benefits of an LLM from the point of view of an international student?

First of all, getting an international LLM really opens up opportunities, be it academic or career-wise. The LLM allows students to take the Bar exams in the United States, and in some cases gain employment here.

But whether a student choses to sit for the Bar or not, the LLM degree distinguishes them when they go back home. The American system of legal education is unparalleled and students think differently after they leave here.

The LLM broadens your perspectives. Students learn to think about the different ways in which things can be done about various approaches to solving legal problems.

The LLM also provides important global networking opportunities. One of the reasons I mentioned that students should look at the student faculty ratio is that many students come to the US and study for a year, but after that year, they know no one. You want to go to a school where the faculty member will know who you are, and be able to support you in your career.

You want to go to a school where the faculty member will know who you are, and be able to support you in your career. And the same holds true for your classmates.

And the same holds true for your classmates. The Illinois LLM is diverse and so students have colleagues from South America, Europe, Africa, and different parts of Asia. In 5-10 years into their practice, it may be helpful for them to know people practicing law in different regions.

And you can’t do this by continuing your education at home.

A lot of our clients are looking at joining academia as a profession. Any advice for those considering the JSD or other doctorate degree?

I would highly recommend the JSD for someone who wants to teach or be in academia.

In many countries, you really need a doctoral degree to join the highest ranks of academia. But the JSD admissions are also very competitive, most schools take 5-10 JSD students a year. So, if we have an LLM class of 70 students, even if they all want a JSD we can’t take them all. It is very, very competitive.

My advice for LLM students who are looking at the JSD is that they should apply to several schools because admission is so competitive.

Any final words of advice for those interested in an LLM in the US?

Do your homework and start early. All law schools have detailed websites, so do your homework and really try to understand the program as much as you can.

No NET for Assistant Prof. post if you have a foreign PhD from a top-500 University

For those Indian law graduates looking to join academia, here is a development that ought to be of interest. As per multiple reports last week, the University Grants Commission has allowed foreign PhD holders to be directly recruited as assistant professors. Most significantly, this does away with the requirement of the National Eligibility Test – a factor that has discouraged many in the past.

This development can actually be traced back to July last year when the UGC published the succinctly titled UGC Regulations on Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and Other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education. [pdf]

Amongst other things, the Regulations state to be eligible for direct recruitment to the post of Assistant Professor, you can either go through the established route of the NET (although there are some exceptions to this) or have a PhD from a foreign degree that has,

“obtained from a foreign university/institution with a ranking among top 500 in the World University Ranking (at any time) by any one of the following: (i) Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) (ii) the Times Higher Education (THE) or (iii) the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University (Shanghai).”

These regulations have been notified in October last year so I am not sure why this has been picked up only now. In fact, this particular provision (of PhD from a foreign university) was mentioned in this news report from June of last year.

Whatever be the reason for the recent reports, what this effectively means is that Indian law graduates can consider different pathways to entering Indian academy. And, also, the NET is no longer a mandatory requirement for becoming an Assistant Professor.

Three Executive LLMs that mid-career lawyers can look at

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Ever feel like life is too slow?

So far, clients at Amicus Partners have largely been of two kinds: one, law students in their final or penultimate year of law and two, law grads with a few years of work experience. So naturally, our focus has been on the LLM (and other masters courses) that are tailored for these two segments; I would say that 95% of our clientele is not really looking for anything else.

However, over the last few weeks, I have become aware of a small section of lawyers who are also considering “executive” programs – courses with a reduced residency requirement, tailored to fit into a working professional’s schedule.

Essentially, these programs provide some of the big draws of a full-time LLM: specialist knowledge, brand, and networking without having to give up the entire year (or ten months) that the full-time course would take. And of course, the associated costs that a year out of the country would carry.

To be honest, I am not quite sure if Indian lawyers see executive LLMs as a value proposition, but I do come across lawyers who are considering it. Typically, these are lawyers who are firmly on the Partner track (or close to it), and looking to up skill. At the same time, they are also wary of a year-long departure from the office.

The question is though, will they bite?

Institutions like Columbia Law School certainly think so. They have recently launched their Executive LLM program, and they are not the first major law school to do so. Given below are the details of two other US law schools that offer executive LLM’s.

Of course, you would be well-advised to read through each program’s fine print to see if they satisfy your requirements such as Bar eligibility, qualifying for OPT etc.

Columbia Law School’s Executive LLM in Global Business Law

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Columbia Law Schools Exec LLM/ Columbia Law School 

 

(Homepage)

The newest entrant, as far as I know, to the “e-LLM” club, the Executive LLM from Columbia Law brings a whole lot to the table: online courses and assessments, a three-month residency requirement in New York City, and some stellar faculty. The website mentions that they prefer applicants with a minimum of five years of work experience.

Tuition: $72,560 (More info)

Application Deadline: January 18, 2019 (Preferred deadline is Dec 18, 2018) (More Info)

Contact: ExecLLM@law.columbia.edu

Pros: Faculty, Career Services, Brand, Location

Cons: Does not qualify you for NY Bar, Expensive, First year of operations

Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Executive LLM Chicago

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The Northwestern ELLMC/Northwestern University

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Born out of the accelerated summer LLM program, Northwestern’s Executive LLM Chicago (ELLMC) course was formally launched in 2016.  With a curriculum that “will focus on the way lawyers interact across the world with business clients and enterprises”, the ELLMC is not really for someone looking to make that switch to the US. In fact, this is one of the facts that are clearly stated on the website itself (see below)

Tuition: $67,066 (See more)

Application Deadline: Rolling admission

Pros: Qualifies you for California Bar (but read the fine print), scholarships (partial) available, entire course is class-based

Cons: Not tailored for US employment, Expensive

London School of Economics and Political Science Executive LLM

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LSE’s Executive LLM/LSE 

(Home page)

With an LLM that is quite popular amongst Indian law graduates, LSE does enjoy a certain amount of brand recognition in India.  In addition, the ELLM at LSE also comes with a set of specialisations, and can be completed over the course of four years. Applicants with at least 3 years PQE are preferred.

Tuition: £3,250 per module, 8 modules for completion (£26,000)

Application Deadline: Rolling admission

Pros: Can be covered over 4 years, Location, “Exit points” for those who don’t complete course

Cons: No scholarships, Fairly intensive teaching schedule [pdf]

In addition to the three listed above, one can also look at IE Law School’s Executive LLM that is jointly offered with Northwestern University. And lastly, thanks to LinkedIn, I found the Master of Advanced Corporation Law (MACL) course from the University of Michigan’s Law School.

The Fortnightly with Professor John Flood (Part 1)

If you are visiting this blog, the chances are that legal education is a topic of interest for you. It certainly is for me, and the past few months have allowed me to read about some of the more innovative changes that are taking place in the world of legal education.

At some point in my research, and I am guessing this will be the case for others as well, I chanced upon the writings of one Professor John Flood. A Professor of Law at Griffith University, John Flood has written extensively on the changing nature of the legal profession, amongst other things. But that is not all. Listen to this episode of the Happy Lawyer to get a glimpse of his career. Also, visit his SSRN page where you can find, inter alia, his book on barrister’s clerks in the UK.

Anyway, what I found particularly intriguing about him was his thoughts on legal education, and what the future holds. Which is why I am quite excited to introduce the “Fortnightly with John Flood” (FwF) series where the professor answers a question or two on legal education.

Enough digressing, here is the first FwF:

What do you think the purpose of legal education ought to be?

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Prof. John Flood

I think the answer depends on what you want legal education to achieve. Some people will insist it should be practical and vocational in nature. Perhaps if it’s an emerging economy with a great need for lawyers to handle business and emerging human rights, then creating a vocational attitude might be the way to go.

However, in both business and human rights I would like lawyers to be aware of the deeper issues that can arise. Should business be purely free market with no concern for the neighbourhood effects (externalities) which might consist of poor environmental regulation or poor labour laws regulating conditions of work?

The American approach is to consider law one of the professional schools along with medicine, business and journalism. But their approach is predicated on the fact that professional students will have done a liberal arts degree before taking a professional degree.

In many other countries like the UK or Germany law is a first degree therefore it is expected it will serve a double function of being a “liberal arts” degree along with professional training. This is not the best approach as it conflates practice and theory in ways which are antithetical. In such jurisdictions students taking law frequently resent having to take subjects like legal theory or jurisprudence later on in their degrees feeling they are a waste of time and a detraction from learning how to do “real law”.

In many other countries like the UK or Germany law is a first degree therefore it is expected it will serve a double function of being a “liberal arts” degree along with professional training. This is not the best approach as it conflates practice and theory in ways which are antithetical.

There is a tendency in many countries to follow the American style of legal education. Aside from the supposed practical aspects, American legal education has a scientific bent to it which is illustrated by the popularity and dominance of law and economics, something which isn’t found much elsewhere. These give law and legal education gravitas and status.

Law in many ways reflects what societies are like. It is a kind of social science, perhaps the first. So as societies change, so must law. And the biggest changes affecting society are those caused by automation and machine learning. Unfortunately legal education has taken very little account of these yet.

It will have to.

 

(Image taken from here)

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