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, I speak with Daria Kozlowska-Rautiainen, the Director of the International Commercial Arbitration Law LL.M. (ICAL) offered at Stockholm University.
Given your experience with teaching academic writing, how do you think law schools can encourage and build interest in research and writing? Any advice for law students who want to build research skills but don’t quite know where to start?
Exposing the students to different types of writing, building their confidence to critically analyze the text and allowing them to have a voice are the aims that I focus on when I teach academic writing.
In the ICAL programme, students work a lot with text, not only with books and articles written by top academics and practitioners in the field, but also court decisions and arbitral awards.
It all starts with knowing how to read the text: questioning what the author is saying, noticing the gaps in the analysis, arguments that are not supported by sources, information that is superfluous and elements that are the missing pieces of the puzzle.
“It all starts with knowing how to read the text: questioning what the author is saying, noticing the gaps in the analysis, arguments that are not supported by sources, information that is superfluous and elements that are the missing pieces of the puzzle.”
We have seminars where we dissect the texts, seminars on research ethics, methodology and use of sources.
This helps the students to learn how to write and when they notice that they understand the ingredients of a good writing and they have something to say, they are much more eager to express their opinions. The teaching has to be interactive and allow the students be creative and critical, even towards the greatest authorities in the field.
Throughout the academic year, the ICAL students will have written at least some of the following: a report, a case-comment, a few argumentative essays, a statement of claim or defence, a procedural order, an arbitral award, and of course, a master’s thesis.
In my view, encouraging the students to perfect their skills in research and writing is not a challenging task. Many of the ICAL students have been interested in the arbitration field long enough to notice that publishing a good quality paper is a strong advantage for one’s career.
Many top arbitration practitioners publish regularly. In the area of international arbitration, there are many prestigious academic writing competitions and we make sure to send the invitations for submissions to our students.
What are some of the characteristics of the ICAL LLM which make it particularly beneficial for the international lawyer?
First, the ICAL Programme focuses solely on international commercial arbitration. The approach to teaching is systematic and based on progression. All key aspects of arbitration are covered and the difficulty of the topics and tasks grows as the academic year progresses. But the curriculum is only part of the learning experience.
Second, as the teaching is interactive and gives space for students to discuss and work on projects together in groups, the learning comes not only from us, the academic staff and the prominent guest lecturers, but also from the other students. Hence, in my eyes, the ICAL students are the key element of the quality of education. Our students consist of top candidates from all over the globe.
The ICALs (as they like to call themselves) are a unique mix of talented individuals. We have students who are already experienced attorneys and those who are fresh out-of-law school graduates. All students are very interested in the field of arbitration, but some have a background in company law, transactions, politics or even engineering.
Third, the ICAL students go through the courses together, as one group. It is a special experience that cannot be measured just by the academic achievements of the students. My philosophy in teaching the ICAL students is based on tilsammans – the Swedish word for together.
How do you think LLM candidates can make the most of what is a relatively short course?
When you study in an international programme it is important to stay open to new, different ideas, be inquisitive, not make hasty assumptions and take this learning experience as a whole. This means participating in all activities that are offered, being active in recognizing what advantages you get when you study at Stockholm University – they go beyond having access to excellent legal databases.
The ICAL students are often invited to participate in international arbitration conferences and other events.
Finally, when you are studying, it is about much more than just learning what has been assigned; it is about researching on your own, searching for the information, and broadening our knowledge to satisfy your genuine academic curiosity.
From an admissions point of view, any advice one should go about drafting the statement of purpose?
It is wonderful to read all the various styles of statements of purpose that we receive from the students.
The advice I would give is to focus on what motivates you to study in this particular programme: why are you interested in arbitration, what knowledge or experience you have in this area, and why did you choose Stockholm University.
Do not forget to say something about yourself that we cannot read from your CV.
Is there a particular profile of candidates that you are looking for when it comes to the ICAL LLM? For instance, would you prefer to have candidates with some work experience?
As pointed out above, we admit both those candidates who have already worked in the area of arbitration for some years as well as fresh graduates with no previous experience in the field.
If one could say that we have a profile of candidates, then those are talented individuals who have excellent academic achievements and who are highly motivated to study international commercial arbitration.
Lastly, any advice for those who are looking to build a career in International commercial arbitration, either pre or post LLM?
Never stop learning. Arbitration is an ever-evolving area. Stay connected with the arbitration community and be active.
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