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 LLM experiences in different law schools across the world. 

Bilge Ozaslan is a 2023 LLM graduate from the Boston University’s School of Law. With a law degree from the Istanbul Kultur University in 2018, Bilge opted for a US LLM after gaining some work experience. In this interview, she shares her reasons for opting for Boston University, the LLM experience as a foreign trained lawyer, and a whole lot more. 

Bilge Ozaslan is a 2023 LLM graduate from the School of Law at Boston University. With a law degree from the Istanbul Kultur University in 2018, Bilge opted for a US LLM after gaining some work experience. In this interview, she shares her reasons for opting for Boston University, the LLM experience as a foreign trained lawyer, and a whole lot more. 
Bilge Ozaslan

When you started considering a US LLM, what were some of the expectations you had from the LLM program? And based on this, what were the schools you shortlisted, if there was more than one?

I studied law in Turkiye which is a civil law country and worked there for four years before starting my LLM studies. I wanted to learn the common law perspective, and extend my knowledge in different legal systems.

I wanted to be in a school where they offer programs to students all over the world and create an open minded environment. This way, it was easier to have friends from different countries, have conversations about their lives, countries, and legal systems.

I had to make a difficult choice between two reputable schools: Boston University and Washington University in St. Louis.

Why narrow down on Boston University?

Before applying to LLM programs, I had conversations with people in different universities over zoom or in person. I wanted to gather as much information as possible since it was an important transition from professional life to becoming a student again. I was not sure if I was going to apply for the program but I also had this powerful desire to learn more.

I went to Boston University in person before applying for the program. There, I met with Associate Director John LaPlante who shared with me what to expect in the program, potential challenges and opportunities related to it.

Boston University has a wide selection of courses where students can choose more theoretical or practical courses or a combination of them with a chance of having a lot of cross-disciplinary courses. That was one of the reasons why I chose Boston University.

The other reason was, I wanted to study in Boston city because it offers opportunities in law, technology, and their intersection which is where my passion lies.

With the benefit of hindsight, what have been some of the most rewarding aspects of the BU LLM?

I think the most rewarding aspect is having lifelong friends from JDs and LLMs.

I would say the second one was being free in designing your coursework in alignment with one’s own interests. For example, I was interested in legal tech but I had no idea where to start. So, I took legal innovation, transactional simulation, law and algorithm classes. During these courses I had a chance to meet students from different backgrounds such as computer science, business, etc.

The other rewarding aspect was having great professors who are the best in their area, have experience in the professional world, and really there to help students.

I am still in contact with my professors and friends and we always support each other.

As a foreign trained lawyer, were there any specific difficulties you encountered during the LLM experience at a US law school? For instance, was the mode of teaching quite different from what you were used to in Turkiye?

I think there were two difficulties- one of which you already asked, teaching techniques. In Turkiye, law students usually go to classes, learn the basics, listen to professors, and after 3 or 4 weeks into the semester, they start to solve hypothetical legal problems according to what they learn and [Turkiye’s] Supreme Court decisions.

In the US, even in the first class, law students do their readings given by the professor before the class. So, they are prepared for most of the questions and usually, the professor doesn’t give a lecture but asks questions and waits for the students to answer them. Thus, the teaching technique is more interactive in the US.

The other difficulty was more of a cultural one. I was used to being quiet in class and asking my questions afterwards in Turkiye. However, in the US, students are more involved and they discuss their ideas, ask questions during the class. It was a shock at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly.

What is your reading of the job opportunities available to foreign trained lawyers in the US? How do you think they can maximize their chances of finding employment?

As a foreign trained lawyer it is really hard to find a job in the US. The biggest issue is we have a one year working permit and after that, we need a sponsorship which a lot of legal companies do not offer.

During my LLM year, everyone told me that the most important thing is networking and I can’t emphasize this more.

Network, network, network!

Find people who do things that you are interested in, talk to them, send an email, go to legal events, and meet new people. They are going to be the ones that will help you after graduation. Be open to volunteer or intern positions. If you have time, do some internships during your LLM year.

Lastly, and this is more of a cultural question, but what do you wish more international students knew about the US master’s experience?

You need to leave your comfort zone. I know it is easy to talk in your native language, be friends with people who are from your country but you miss the opportunity to widen your vision and enrich your life if you get stuck to what you already do in your home country.

It is hard to be in a different country, get used to a new legal system, and try to understand different cultures and accents. However, it is going to be one of the best experiences you’ll ever have. Talk to students who got through the US education system and learn more about their cultures. They are going to teach you a lot and help you to blend in.

Do not be afraid to speak up and do not worry that you may have a different accent than others, raise your hand in classes. Everyone is there to help you and you are going to appreciate it in the future. Be open-minded and try new things, such as food, music, etc.

And, I think the most important one is to have fun.

Your LLM is probably going to be stressful but do not stay stuck between books; make sure you take opportunities to hang out with your new friends. One year passes by so quickly- accumulating fun memories are part of the full experience!