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 get to speak with Laura Tate Kagel from the School of Law at the University of Georgia. Laura is the Associate Director for international professional education for the school’s Dean Rusk International Law Center, and oversees the LL.M. programmes offered by the university. Laura also maintains, what I consider, an interesting balance of academia and activism.
In this interview, she shares some advice on approaching the personal statement, the tuition waivers that the law school offers, and a whole lot more.
Over the last eight years at the University of Georgia, what aspect(s) of the LLM program have international law graduates placed the greatest value on?
I would say that the individual support has been most important to them. As an alumna of the law school and someone who has lived and studied abroad, I am able to help them navigate some of the challenges of adapting to a different system of legal education and a new environment.
Conversations that we have can lead to greater clarity about career and personal goals.
When it comes to the application itself, one of the trickier bits is the Statement of Purpose – any advice on how to condense a number of issues into 500 words?
I think that it is a good idea to think of the statement of purpose as reflecting how you got to where you are today and where you want to go from here. How have you become qualified to pursue an LL.M. and why does that make sense for your career?
Could you provide any information on the quantum of financial aid that is granted to the LLM cohort on average?
Many of our LL.M. students receive merit-based financial aid in the form of an out-of-state tuition waiver that allows them to pay in-state/Georgia resident rates, of approximately $20,000 (tuition and fees). (The LLM costs can be found here)
We believe that the University of Georgia School of Law can provide an excellent return on investment and we are happy that we can make it more affordable for qualified students.
“We believe that the University of Georgia School of Law can provide an excellent return on investment and we are happy that we can make it more affordable for qualified students.”
Every year we also select several top applicants to be graduate assistants and they pay less than $2,500 for tuition and fees, and also receive a modest stipend for work as a research assistant under faculty supervision. Our priority deadline for financial aid is January 15.
One of the reasons why Indian law grads consider an LLM is to sit for the Bar – what is your reading of legal recruitments in the US, specially for international LLM graduates?
Many of our LL.M. students prepare to take a U.S. bar exam, usually in New York or Georgia. For some, a U.S. bar admission leads to a career boost in their home country; others find legal work in the U.S.
If a foreign attorney wants to practice law in the U.S. at the same level as American counterparts, a J.D. degree can smoothen the path. The LL.M. students who are highly successful in our program can apply to transfer to the J.D. program, and thus earn 2 degrees in 3 years. It is not necessary to take the LSAT exam if the J.D. program is entered in this way.
We also offer a dual LL.M./MBA degree that can be completed in two years and opens up other career opportunities.
“The LL.M. students who are highly successful in our program can apply to transfer to the J.D. program, and thus earn 2 degrees in 3 years. It is not necessary to take the LSAT exam if the J.D. program is entered in this way. “
You have had quite a very interesting career thus far, especially when it comes to the educational choices you made. Anything that sets legal education apart from the other courses that you enrolled for?
I am particularly interested in social justice issues and a legal education gives you a broader perspective on how change can be effected (or what stands in the way of change).
As far as studying law, it is more rules-based and less subjective than humanities, but literature and law are both subject to interpretation.
You also sit at the cusp of academy and activism – how do you manage to balance the two?
I would like to balance them more, but I think that an academic background gives you the tools to influence people’s thinking, whether you do it on a small scale or a grander one.
Last question – some Indian law graduates who are interested in a research-based career. What advice would you have for those who are looking at the LLM as the stepping stone to a doctorate degree?
In our program we offer the opportunity to complete an LL.M. essay under the supervision of a law faculty member. This research and writing project allows students to become expert in a particular area of the law and can provide the basis for an application to an S.J.D. program.
“This research and writing project allows students to become expert in a particular area of the law and can provide the basis for an application to an S.J.D. program.”
A Ph.D. student in India may find it beneficial to take a year abroad to gain deeper understanding of U.S. law and embark on a project that could form the basis of a dissertation.