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.

Justin Swinsick is the Director of Graduate Programs at the University of Chicago's Law School,
Justin Swinsick, UChicago Law

Justin Swinsick is the Director of Graduate Programs at the University of Chicago’s Law School, and was in Delhi recently for the LSAC LLM fair.

In this interview, Justin shares his thoughts on the value of an international LLM, common mistakes to avoid while applying, employment opportunities in the US for the international LLM graduate, and a whole lot more.

I ask this of as many people as I can – what is the value of a US LLM from the point of view of an international law graduate?

While the vast majority of LLM graduates never practice in the US I think they are still very well served by studying law in the US for at least a year.  From a pragmatic perspective, transactional work in an international environment tends to reflect a very US approach, not to mention the amount of influence US law has generally in this space.

Further, at some point, unless you are working in a very niche national area, you will have a client that interacts with the US in some way and having an understanding of US legal practice and how US lawyers approach problems will allow you to better protect your client’s interests.

I also think spending a year at a US law school makes one a better advocate in their own jurisdiction practicing their national law.  The emphasis on advocacy, logic, reasoning and analysis is valuable for an attorney practicing anywhere in the world, and this is what really sets law schools in the US apart.

“The emphasis on advocacy, logic, reasoning and analysis is valuable for an attorney practicing anywhere in the world, and this is what really sets law schools in the US apart. “

While the core material you learn in each class is important, US law schools are designed to emphasize the learning process itself over the material so that graduates become more adaptable lawyers.

UChicago prefer applicants with a few years work experience – how have you seen this component (PQE) play out during the LLM experience?

While it is not a requirement for an applicant to have post law school work experience, and we have had a number of fantastic students over the years that have come directly from law school, the majority of our candidates do come with work experience.

When a candidate comes to the program with experience I think they have a better understanding of:

  • How to leverage the professional opportunities available to them and,
  • How their coursework translates into their practice.

First, there are many opportunities to be had during the LLM and students that have been out in the work force tend to be better at recognizing where those opportunities are.  Second, candidates that come to the program with work experience have a better grasp of how the material they are studying can be implemented into their practice.

Again, a fairly common question – when it comes to the Personal Statement, any mistakes that prospective applicants ought to avoid?

If you use the same personal statement for more than one school make sure to change the name of the school.  That is a death knell.  We understand candidates are applying to multiple schools (in fact I encourage them to do so).  However, forgetting to change the name of the school is a sloppy mistake and sends a very poor message.

Another mistake is that candidates will simply repeat what is readily available in their CV.  The personal statement should be used to add a little bit of colour to the application as well as demonstrate to the reader that the candidate knows how the LLM fits in with their overall goals (where they are now, where they want to be, and how the LLM creates the bridge).

“Another mistake is that candidates will simply repeat what is readily available in their CV.  “

Are LLM students allowed to cross register in different departments/schools at UChicago?

Yes, LLM students can take classes at any other UChicago school, though those credits will not count towards the graduation requirements of the LLM.

In your experience, what do international LLM graduates value the most from their LLM at UChicago Law?

The personal connections with their classmates and professors. UChicago Law is a small school and prides itself on these relationships. The friends and professional contacts students make stay with them for the rest of their lives.

What are the employment opportunities in the US which are available to UChicago LLM graduates? Could you tell me a bit about the January job fairs?

Any student looking to pursue an LLM in the US needs to realize that the chances are very slim that they will find full time employment with a firm or company in the US following the program.

With that said, it does happen every year but it is important for a candidate to first understand how the program will benefit them back home and then if they find something that allows them to stay in the US, that is a cherry on top.

“It is important for a candidate to first understand how the program will benefit them back home and then if they find something that allows them to stay in the US, that is a cherry on top.”

During the program students need to make sure they are taking advantage of networking opportunities, speak with professors, and career services professionals to make sure they are turning over every stone possible, but with the understanding that the odds are not in their favour.

UChicago Law participates in the overseas LLM job fair which takes place annually in late January/early February in New York. The event is hosted by Columbia Law.  In addition to UChicago Law and Columbia the other participating schools are Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Michigan and Virginia.

During the fair LLM students have the opportunity to interview with law firms from around the globe looking to recruit LLM students. UChicago Law students tend to do quite well during this event averaging between 5 and 6 interviews per student.

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