As most readers know by now, First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of Indian law graduates who have pursued, or are currently pursuing, a post-graduate course (be it an LLM or otherwise) from different schools across the world.
The FPA (International) is meant to broaden this scope somewhat, getting non-Indian law graduates to discuss their LL.M. experiences in different law schools from across the world. The idea behind the FPA(I) interviews is to help the Indian law graduate better understand her potential cohort, and also expand the LL.M. conversation in general.
Yasmeen Eesa is a Syrian law graduate who completed an LL.M. from the Syracuse University College of Law in 2019. She is also qualified to practice in the states of New York and Texas. In this interview, she discusses her reasons for enrolling for a US master’s, the US Bar qualification route, and a whole lot more.
Let’s start at the start – what got you looking at a foreign LL.M.
Many reasons can push you to pursue an LLM degree in foreign law, and people differ in their grounds. Some choose to study the LLM because they want to advance their career; others look forward to expanding their career to be an international job. Lawyering is one of the essential things in my life since I was a child.
Of course, I want to pursue an LLM degree for the same reasons mentioned above, but lawyering is the primary goal. Since I live in the United States, I wanted to get back to my job as an attorney, and one of the paths to achieve this goal is getting an LLM degree in US law and pass the bar exam. For these reasons, I had to start thinking of pursuing an LLM degree in US law.
How did you go about deciding just where to apply? What made you narrow down on Syracuse?
When you start searching for an LLM program, many factors can affect your choice, and everyone should choose the LLM program based on their goal. Having good tutors and the quality of teaching can have a significant impact on my decision. Also, the diversity and flexibility of the courses are essential.
Syracuse law school has diverse courses and professional professors who lead you to success if you have the intention to do so and work hard on your self. Another reason we cannot overlook is the support and financial aid. Syracuse law school offers partial scholarships, and this can really help a lot of people.
After attending Syracuse law school, I would add the friendly staff and professors who try their best to make you feel like you are home and with your family. Another important reason that can get you to choose Syracuse law school is the diversity between students. Here, you can find students from many countries, states, religions and races, and we can not forget how affordable and beautiful is the city of Syracuse. Syracuse city is affordable and suitable for studying, especially in winter when you have time to study more than having time to go out. Many people now will consider the school since the the president elect Joe Biden graduated from Syracuse law school.
Looking back, how was the LL.M. experience itself? What were some of the most rewarding aspects of the course?
From my experience in the LLM program, it is incredible how you can attend the courses with attorneys from all over the world besides the United States. Hearing different perspectives, opinions, rules, cases, learn from professors, share knowledge, tradition and experiences with many people from different countries.
It was great for me.
The LLM program changed the way that I think in some parts. For instance, I was attracted more to business law. After taking courses in business law for the bar exam, I found the business courses interesting, especially in the United States, which has one of the world’s most important economies. It is normal to change your way of thinking or career based on the courses you take, and you like. You do not have to stick to the same field you already practiced. For me, learning a new specialty is exciting and can widen your knowledge and experience in your life.
Given the short nature of the course, how do you think an LL.M. candidate can make the most of the course?
As you mentioned, the LLM program is concise compared to the JD program, and this makes taking the bar exam more challenging to the LLM students than the JD students. We can not overlook the language since most of the students are foreign, and English is not their native language, making things more demanding and more challenging.
My first advice would be to strengthen your English before starting the LLM program, and it would be great if you start reading some legal books and novels. Working on your English, especially the legal terms, would offer you more time in the LLM program to focus on the course’s content more than focusing on learning English. In my opinion, this would be the most important thing to work on before starting, and I mean by strong or good English is to get at least six or preferably 6.5 in the IELTS exam to be fair.
Your next step would be to know your goal. To benefit from the LLM course the most, you should know your plan because if your goal is to take the bar exam, the way you will benefit from the LLM course will be different from people who want to study the LLM and get back to their home countries. If you’re going to take the bar exam, it is essential to choose most of your courses from the highly tested courses on the Bar Exam. That would be precious.
For attorneys who want to get back to their countries, they tend to choose courses that support their careers, such as human rights and International law, which are not tested on the bar exam. This way, you will focus on your goal to get the most benefit of the LLM course.
Thus far, you have managed to clear the Texas Bar as well as the NY Bar Could you tell me what was the process for the Texas Bar? And how did you go about preparing for the exam itself?
In my opinion, preparing for the Bar Exam starts while you are taking the LLM course, and that’s why I said you should decide your goal at the beginning of the LLM program. Taking classes that are highly tested on the Bar Exam will help prepare for the Exam. Taking legal writing will also reinforce your ability to pass the writing part of the bar exam.
Of course, even if you did not do all the preparation that I mentioned, you can still pass the bar exam, but you spend more time, money and effort to achieve your goal. Another critical thing to do is to choose the right Bar preparation course that is suitable for you. Each course has a different plan, and selecting a good plan will help you succeed. When you choose the bar preparation course, there will be a plan that will lead your way and give you advice on how to finish the course on time to be ready for your exam.
For the New York Bar, you have to achieve a score of 266 in the bar exam to pass and be eligible to be a licensed attorney. The process starts when you finish your LLM.
The requirement that you have to achieve to be eligible to take the Bar Exam differs depending on which country you got your law degree. And whether your law school is English based school or not. You need to apply for the Bar Exam early because sometimes it can take up to one year to get the Bar association approval. Passing the Bar Exam is one of the requirements to be a licensed attorney in the United States. There are other Exams, such as The MPRE and the NYLE.
You have to pass these exams beside the bar exam. Do not forget the pro bono hours where you need to volunteer 50 hours of legal work under an attorney’s supervision. You can find all this information on the Bar association website because they go case by case, and it is essential to know your case. After passing the Bar Exam, I applied to the Texas Bar, and I became licensed in Both New York and Texas. By transferring my New York score to Texas, I got my Texas License, but be careful you can not transfer your New York Score to Texas unless you achieved all the Texas requirements and achieve the required Texas score of the Bar Exam.
I cannot walk you through all the details, but I am trying to give the most important things and always check for any changes significantly during the covid 19 pandemics since they made many changes.
What is your reading of the employment opportunities for a foreign trained LL.M. graduate in the US?
I did not apply for a job yet since my children have an online school, and I have to help them, but I believe that the United States is the land of opportunities. Also, I always think that a successful person can be successful in any place, no matter the circumstances. I know many LLM students who graduated from the LLM program and find a job immediately after graduation. I love the United States because when you work hard, you can see your hard work pay off.
Lastly, any advice for a foreign-trained lawyer who is considering a US LL.M.?
Always follow your dream.
If you feel that you want to study the LLM, work hard to achieve this dream. However, do not forget that each person is different, and you can always create your success and experience. When you do something, try to do it in your way, the way that works for you, because what works for others may do not work for you always.
For those who are taking the bar exam, try to organize your time to work for you. Do not just follow what other people do. Create your way of studying. Best of luck to all of you who will start their journey in studying the LLM; whether you aim to take the Bar or return to your country, enjoy what you are doing.