The Admission Interviews, are meant to provide insights into LLM admissions right from the law school itself. The primary idea behind this series is to provide that little bit of extra information that may not be available on the law school’s website.

In this edition, I speak with Cole Agar, the Director of Graduate and International Programs at Peking University’s School of Transnational Law (STL). Cole explains the reasons why he would recommend the LLM

Let’s start from the start – why do you think Indian law graduates should choose the STL LLM?

Indian Law graduates should choose the LLM program for a number of reasons. These reasons boil down to value for price, diversity and connections, and future-oriented career advancement.

First, STL offers an LLM with the quality and prestige of a top U.S. law school but at a fraction of the price. To put some numbers to this claim, for 2019 QS World University Rankings ranked Peking University 30th in the world, and Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked Peking University 31st in the World. In comparison New York University (NYU) ranked 43rd and 27th respectively. And yet, tuition for Peking University’s LLM at STL is almost  1/3 the cost of tuition for the LLM at NYU (about USD 25,000 versus USD 63,802), and the cost of living in China is significantly lower. The comparison goes beyond just the numbers and rankings. In fact, STL’s was built on an American law school model and a high percentage of STL faculty are American and internationally trained professors.

Another great reason to study at STL is how diverse our international student body is. We have students from every continent on earth, except Antarctica. While I could talk at length about how this enriches the experience of our students and brings a wide range of perspectives into the classroom (which is all true), what is more important for an international lawyer is that it allows our students to build a network of connections that spans the globe. Furthermore, the Chinese students that our LLM candidates will study alongside, represent the top 0.5 percent of students in the country. STL students will go on to be leaders in international law firm, government, universities, multinational companies, and international organizations.

Finally, completing an LLM at STL is an excellent way for a law student or young lawyer to differentiate themselves from all the other students who do LLMs in countries like the US and UK. While China is rapidly ascending in terms of global impact and significance, most LLM candidates continue to pay for overpriced degrees in the west, where the value of these degrees is declining. STL offers students the opportunity to gain knowledge, skills and connections that will make them unique in a competitive legal market. China is the future of trade, business and tech, and all these industries need the support, expertise and guidance of the legal profession, and yet international law students and young lawyers are just starting to realize the value of boosting their credentials by completing an LLM at a top university in China.

“While China is rapidly ascending in terms of global impact and significance, most LLM candidates continue to pay for overpriced degrees in the west, where the value of these degrees is declining. STL offers students the opportunity to gain knowledge, skills and connections that will make them unique in a competitive legal market.”

Does STL look for graduates with a few years of work experience or is the school open to a wide range of applicants? Any other preferences that STL has when it comes to LLM applicants?

STL looks for applicants who have excelled academically, are professionally experienced, and have a compelling vision for how studying in China fits into their career. So while work experience is not required, it is certainly one of the things we look for.

What we do not like to see is applicants who are only applying because Peking University is a big name, prestigious institution, but they do not really know who we are and what we specialize in. Applicants should do their homework, and at a minimum read through the information on our website before applying.

Any advice on how applicants should approach the personal statement requirement? 

First, do not just restate your resume and list your accomplishments. Second, do not submit a generic personal statement that could have been written for a dozen other schools.

As mentioned above, we want applicants who can articulate compelling reasons for how studying at STL fits into their career path. For example, some of our best applicants have been those who witnessed the growing importance of China in their country but saw that few local lawyers had any training or experience with Chinese law, language, or culture. As a result, they wanted to study at STL in order to differentiate themselves and to get ahead of the curve in an evolving business and legal world.

Other applicants have had a specific job in their home country where their employer wanted them to be more knowledgeable about China and to gain connections in China. These are the types of stories we love to read about in personal statements.

Since the LLM degree is conferred two years after enrolment, what do LLM students do after they complete their residence? Does STL help in setting up externships?

As you mention, the LL.M. is a two-year program, but the residency and course requirements can be completed in 1 year. During the second year students focus on drafting their thesis and have the flexibility to remain on campus taking additional courses, or travel for internships, field research, or work. STL can help students set up internships and externships.

Do LLM students have the opportunity to intern at Chinese organisations?

LLM students have the opportunity to intern at Chinese organizations, law firms, and global companies such as Huawei, Tencent and BYD. However, many of these organizations prefer interns who speak Chinese as well as another language, so this can be a limiting factor for international students.

I found it interesting that STL has been helmed by deans of American law schools – what are some of the US law school practices, if any, that one can find at STL?

You will find nearly all US law school practices at STL. In fact, STL was built largely on an American law school model. As a result, our classes are very interactive, and bring in a strong focus on practical knowledge and professional skills training. Classes are fairly small, so that teachers can give student more attention both inside and outside the classroom.

“Classes are fairly small, so that teachers can give student more attention both inside and outside the classroom.”

Students have a wide range of electives available to them and classes are taught be renowned American, International and Chinese scholars. There is also a strong emphasis on activities like moot court and student organizations.

Furthermore, a large portion of our curriculum is common law. However, STL expands upon the American system by offering a higher concentration of international and transnational law subjects.

Lastly, the first STL LLM batch recently graduated (in 2016) – what have been some of the highlights for the graduating batch? 

The main highlight has been seeing our graduates quickly jump into legal positions that span nations. For example, one of first LLM graduates is now an associate at a law firm with business between Latin America and Hong Kong.

She acts as a bridge between these two worlds, and the skills and knowledge she gained at STL helped make this happen. This is exactly the type of lawyer we aim to train.

 

End Notes

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