The Admission Interviews, are meant to provide insights into LLM admissions right from the law school itself. The 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, we speak with Eric Menkhus, the Associate Dean of New Education Initiatives and Adam Chodorow, the Associate Dean, Academic Affairs at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University.
Adam, I know it has been quite a while, but could you tell me what prompted your decision to enrol for an LLM? And, from the perspective of an international lawyer, what are some of the valuable aspects of a U.S. LLM?
Adam Chodorow: I had practiced law for quite a while before I decided to go back to school for an LLM. For me, the LLM offered an opportunity to learn a new area of law (in my case tax) and to change the course of my career.
Of course, if you have a job that requires you to learn a new area of law, it is possible to do so without going back to school.
What makes an LLM beneficial is that you get a broad and systematic overview of an area of law, as opposed to the ad hoc learning that goes on in the workplace. This would be especially important for an international lawyer trying to learn about U.S. law. Our common law tradition, court system, regulatory regime, and hierarchies of legal authority differ from those of other countries, and it is important to get a broad view of both the system and the individual areas of law and how they all interconnect.
Such a background will position international lawyers to identify potential legal risks or issues that might arise under U.S. law, do their own research, and advise clients about how best to mitigate those risks.
Eric, You have been driving online learning at ASU since 2012. What are some of the changes that ASU has implemented over the past few months, and will be doing so in the near future as the world adapts to the Covid pandemic? What have been some of the challenges in shifting to an online teaching/learning experience?
Erik Menkhus: ASU Law was in a good situation to quickly react to the changing environment due to Covid-19. Our faculty reacted quickly and offered high quality instruction via zoom.
It was important to take the time, as a faculty, to consider issues regarding methods of instruction, examinations, and fairness in grading fully and move forward in a way we felt was both responsible and fair.
For the future, ASU has already announced that we will be face-to-face for our campus-based courses. We are now considering what steps we will need to take. Depending on how the local infection numbers go, we could be close to back to normal or having significantly reduced capacity for classroom meetings. We can’t make that call until we have more data, unfortunately.
In your experience, what have LLM graduates found to be the most beneficial aspect of the ASU Law LLM experience?
Erik Menkhus: Interacting with our other students (LLMs generally sit in with our JD students in courses) and faculty. Also, Phoenix, Arizona is a very attractive place to live, which is why it is in the fastest growing county in the us.
When it comes to LLM applicants, do you prefer those with some degree of work experience? What are some of the factors that you think a successful candidate must have?
Erik Menkhus: Having some experience can help in the classroom, but is not required. When reviewing LLM applications, we look for success in past academic pursuits, the reason the LLM is being sought, and English proficiency if an applicant’s home country is not primarily English-speaking.
Adam Chodorow: We do not require work experience, but those with a few years work experience often do better in school and get more out of the experience. Working helps students solidify what they learned in their undergraduate law programs and understand at a basic level what lawyers do on a daily basis. This, in turn, informs how they study and approach the LLM.
Having said that, we have had many students come straight through, and they have done well, as well. Successful candidates will have a good command of English, both spoken and written, will have done well in their undergraduate studies, have a strong work ethic, and have a clear notion of what they hope to get out of the experience.
Last question on the admissions front, what do you look for when it comes to an applicant’s written requirements such as a statement of purpose?
Erik Menkhus: A well written statement of purpose that communicates to us why the LLM degree is being sought and why at ASU is very helpful to us. Our most successful LLM students have a purpose behind their studies and goals they want to use the LLM degree to achieve.
Any advice you would have for the Indian applicant who is currently evaluating whether or not to apply for a US LLM?
Erik Menkhus: The world is much more complicated now than it was at this time last year, so the decision to apply for a us LLM is also more complicated. But ASU Law has every intention of providing face-to-face instruction for the upcoming academic year. Phoenix is not a hot spot in the us for Covid-19.
If something unexpected happens, we are adept at providing high quality online instruction or, if the applicant decides they are not interested in that, we also offer deferrals of admission for up to one year.
Adam Chodorow: Law school is hard work, and living abroad can be difficult. I would advise anyone considering a U.S. LLM to have a clear idea of why they want a U.S. LLM.
For some, it may be to learn a new area of law that will help with a current career or perhaps facilitate a career change. For others, it may be the opportunity to spend a year in the U.S., becoming familiar with both U.S. culture and law generally.
Whatever the reason, be sure that you have one and that you show up ready to seize whatever opportunities present themselves. A year sounds like a long time, but it will be over quickly, and it would be a shame not to take full advantage of the experience.
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