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 Amber Featherstone, the Director of Graduate & International Programs at Wake Forest University School of Law. In this interview, Amber shares her thoughts on US legal recruitments, what an admissions office looks for in a personal statement, and a whole lot more.
What do you think are the benefits of an international LLM program that can’t be found in, say, a domestic postgraduate course?
International LLM programs allow students to be exposed to a new set of legal standards and theory. By becoming an expert in another system, these professionals will have the opportunity to advance in their careers with a set of skills and knowledge that sets them apart.
Our world is growing increasingly smaller and understanding international law is going to be a big requirement for practicing attorneys as more and more companies and firms work globally.
I know you have rolling admissions, but how long do you think an applicant should spend on the application itself?
Applicants should put a lot of thought into their application to each school. The components of the application are how a school gets to know the applicant and are the basis for deciding whether that applicant would be a successful student in the program.
Each law school in the U.S. is very different. Applicants should get to know the schools to which they apply and they should show in their application documents that they are the best fit for that school.
Any advice on how one should go about writing the personal statement?
Personal statements are the only piece of the application where an applicant gets to tell us about themselves in their own voice. The personal statement, some would argue, is the most important piece of the application package. Applicants should tell us their story – tell us who they are and why they are the best fit for our school.
Some applicants make the mistake of focusing on only one event in their personal statement. While it can be interesting to learn about that one piece of their journey, it doesn’t give us a lot of information on who the applicant is and how they will fit in at our school.
We recommend that applicants really focus on giving us a complete understanding of who they are and what they want to accomplish in the LLM program. An applicant’s personal statement should be different for every school to which they apply because the reasons they are a good fit for one school may not match our school!
“An applicant’s personal statement should be different for every school to which they apply because the reasons they are a good fit for one school may not match our school!”
This may be cultural, but a lot of Indian applicants struggle with pitching themselves as ideal candidates. Any advice on how they could overcome this?
Everyone struggles with pitching or selling themselves to others. It is hard to share your positive attributes without sounding like you are too confident. We really encourage applicants to try to push past this feeling.
We want to know all of the things they have done that make them an excellent applicant to our school. If they don’t tell us about them, we will never know. So, don’t be shy. Tell us why you’re the perfect student for our program.
“So, don’t be shy. Tell us why you’re the perfect student for our program.”
Do international LLM students participate in externships/internships? What has been the response towards international LLMs at events such as the NYU ISIP?
Externships and internships during the one-year LLM program can be challenging. There just is not enough time to fit them in during the school year. However, most LLM students seek work opportunities after they graduate.
During the academic year we focus on giving students the tools they need to be successful in the job hunt after they graduate.
Having an opportunity like the NYU ISIP is definitely a bonus. Students are able to apply to employers that are looking for candidates just like them – someone with a law degree from outside of the U.S. and an LLM from the U.S. Each year we have had students selected for these interviews and they have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
A lot of Indian law graduates are viewing the LLM as a means to move to start practice in the US. But given how saturated the US legal market is, do you think this is a realistic goal?
I don’t view saturation of the US legal market as the biggest hurdle to finding more permanent employment in the U.S. The biggest challenge, in my opinion, is obtaining more permanent work authorization.
Students who complete their program can apply for 12 months of work authorization after graduation, but that authorization is not guaranteed after the initial time period. Most students have to apply to the visa lottery, which is truly a lottery where not everyone can win.
Finding employers who are willing to take a risk on an international student who is not guaranteed employment authorization after those 12 months is tricky. We work closely with our students to give them the tools they need to convince employers that they are the best candidate for the job – regardless of their visa status.
“Finding employers who are willing to take a risk on an international student who is not guaranteed employment authorization after those 12 months is tricky.”
Could you tell me a bit more about the two-year JD course? Is this an option for Indian law students as well?
The Two-Year JD for International Lawyers is an accelerated JD program that takes only two years to complete and earn a full Juris Doctor degree, which will allow a student to sit for the bar examination in any state.
We give students credit for their previous legal study to shorten the JD. This program is a great option for students who want to shorten their time and financial commitments to get the full first-degree in law here in the U.S. Any student with a Bachelor’s of Law is eligible to apply.
There are some law grads who are interested in academic careers. What advice would you have for them in terms of using the LLM as a stepping stone for the SJD?
For law grads wishing to follow an academic track, the LLM followed by the SJD is the best option.
The SJD is an academic PhD in law that focuses on scholarly writing and research. Students work one-on-one with a faculty advisor who is an expert in their area of research.
In order to complete the program, students must write and defend a dissertation, and present their findings to the public. Many students use this track of study to return to their home countries for law teaching and faculty positions.