The U.S. LL.M | 4 Tips To Get The Most Out of U.S. Law School Class

By Juliana Del Pesco
BARBRI International Legal Manager, Americas

The decision to immerse yourself in a foreign culture and its laws is a bold move. It will also be very rewarding once you are well-prepared. In each U.S. law school class, you will come to understand the language of law in the United States. Strange words such as casebooks, outlines and the Socratic method will soon make good sense to you.

Make the most of what will be an extraordinary international learning experience. Start with our U.S. law school classroom tips.

Here are four ways to get the LL.M. education you desire and be ready to take on a U.S. state bar exam.

#1 – USE YOUR CASEBOOK AS YOUR “ROAD MAP”

Central to your LL.M. education over the next year will be learning to read and brief cases. Most of your reading assignments will come from a casebook, which is a compilation of edited judicial opinions, other supporting text such as statutes and law review articles, and questions or problems. Once you complete a reading assignment before class, you will brief the case during class.

It’s a process that takes practice. Your casebook can be your guide for knowing how to approach an assigned case. Take a look as the chapter headings and table of contents in the casebook when you are given a reading assignment. They are your key to finding the topic to which the assigned case may relate and getting up to speed on it.

#2 – LEARN TO READ AS A U.S. LAWYER

We all know how to read. But not everyone knows the nuances of critically reading an assigned case. Speed reading may have been the goal in other aspects of your education. It won’t do here. You will soon discover that it is all about grasping what’s on the written page. Careful and critical reading of EVERY word put in front of you. This will be your most effective way to learn U.S. law, and begin thinking like a U.S. lawyer.

Dictionary with featured term "attorney," which begins with success in U.S. law school class

#3 – KEEP A GOOD LAW DICTIONARY CLOSE BY

Law is a technical language with technical meanings, and U.S. law is no different. The sooner you can absorb these meanings, the better. So when you’re reading cases, always keep a good law dictionary at hand. If you don’t understand a word you see, stop and look up its meaning. It could make the difference in your ability to properly interpret the case.

In the beginning, if you are still learning the language, you may also need to have an English dictionary to reference.

#4 – BE PREPARED TO BRIEF CASES

The ability to brief, or discuss, a case will be extremely important as you move closer to thinking like a U.S. lawyer. A brief is intended to help you recall the case in sufficient detail to discuss during class and to integrate into your class notes. It’s your best way to analyze the facts and reasoning for a reported case in an organized and manageable fashion.

It will serve you well in your legal career to master the art of reading and briefing cases early on. Law school professors largely base their classroom discussions on the “case method” of analysis and discussion rather than straight lecture. You will be expected to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned cases. That means learning how to read and brief those cases as efficiently as possible.

Law school is your time to develop and polish the skills you will need to pass the bar exam and become an amazing international lawyer. Own your U.S. law school class!

For additional guidance to help make the most of your studies, download the free BARBRI LL.M. Guide.

ABOUT BARBRI

BARBRI has helped more than 1.3 million lawyers around the world pass a U.S. bar exam. The company also provides online J.D., post-J.D., and international programs for U.S. law schools and specialized ongoing training and certifications in areas such as financial crime prevention and eDiscovery.

To help LL.M. students determine which BARBRI course may be best to pass a U.S. state bar exam, check out our blog: BARBRI EXTENDED BAR PREP AND 8-WEEK BARBRI BAR REVIEW: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

The U.S. LL.M. | 6 Tips for Choosing Your Classes Wisely

By Juliana Del Pesco
BARBRI International Legal Manager, Americas

LL.M. programs at some U.S. law schools allow students to create their own class schedule. This is a great benefit. And overwhelming, too. There are many interesting classes, professors and visiting faculty. It’s difficult to decide.

Which professors interest you most? Should you focus in U.S. law or subjects more useful when working back home? Additionally, there are bar exam requirements to consider. And it’s important to maintain balance between your studies and personal life. After all, you want to have time to get fully immersed in the American culture while earning your LL.M degree.

Choosing your classes wisely is critical. Get started with  our free BARBRI LL.M. Guide to Law School & the Bar Exam.

Use these six tips to make the most of your LL.M. education and international experience:

#1 – Credits and timing matter

Registration for classes usually opens 2-to-3 weeks before the beginning of each semester. Start the process as soon as possible to get a spot in the most sought after classes.

Generally, you need 24 credits to graduate and achieve eligibility for most U.S. state bar exams. It may be tempting to squeeze as many classes as possible into one semester; however, law school classes demand thorough preparation and a lot of reading. This takes time. Twelve credits per semester may be a better target, so you properly prepare for class and still engage in extracurricular activities.

#2 – Know class types and check the evaluations

U.S. law schools offer a range of class types:

  • 1L Subjects: These classes are mandatory for first-year U.S. law students (known as 1Ls). They cover the foundations of U.S. law ― Civil Procedure, Contracts, Torts, Property, Criminal Law, Constitutional Law and Legal Writing and Research. The bar exam tests all these subjects. The Socratic Method and infamous “cold calls” are heavily applied during class time. Professors assign a large amount of reading. Typically, the more credits a class offers, the more frequently it will meet.
  • Upper-Level Lectures: These are usually smaller classes. More specific areas of law are taught ― Corporations, Professional Responsibility, Federal Income Tax and Employment Law, for example. Cold calls still exist but in a more relaxed setting with advanced notice. Credits for each course vary.
  • Clinics: In here, you represent real clients under the close supervision of faculty and lawyers. This hands-on experience includes aspects of standard courses, such as classroom time and preparation, along with clinic work and client meetings. You’ll receive between five to seven credits, so plan accordingly.
  • Seminars: This is an opportunity for greater interaction and collaboration with smaller groups of students. Seminars cover specific subjects. Be prepared to deal with assignments throughout the semester, as well as a final paper.

It’s important to also be aware of the frequency for each class and how the professor grades (participation, exam, paper, assignments and presentations, for example). Check course evaluations, if available, too. These provide invaluable insight.

#3 – Look to learn from the experts

Remain aware of opportunities to attend class with renowned professors and visiting faculty from other countries and prestigious universities. They’re usually experts in their legal fields and have written books about a given subject.

#4 – Know your bar exam requirements

It is paramount that you know the bar exam requirements, if you are planning to take it. It’s a good idea to choose classes required by the state in which you will sit the bar. This will help you avoid any future issues with eligibility.

Find the bar exam requirements for New York, California, and Texas in the free BARBRI LL.M. Guide to Law School & the Bar Exam.

#5 – Consider the season and semester

Don’t miss out on a class you really want to take. Make sure you know when any classes of interest are offered (fall or spring semesters, for example). And remember to keep in mind when that “famous” professor from another school or country will be teaching it.

#6 – Don’t shy away from classes with J.D. students

Ready for complete immersion in the American culture? Looking forward to a true U.S. law experience? An LL.M. degree gives you all of that. You’ll interact daily with Juris Doctorate (J.D.) students from different states, cities and backgrounds. Plan to take as many courses with J.D.s (as you feel is right for you, of course). Choose your classes wisely and you’ll own your legal education experience!

About BARBRI

BARBRI has helped more than 1.3 million lawyers around the world pass a U.S. bar exam. The company also provides online J.D., post-J.D., and international programs for U.S. law schools and specialized ongoing training and certifications in areas such as financial crime prevention and eDiscovery.

To help LL.M. students determine which BARBRI course may be best to pass a U.S. state bar exam, check out our blog: BARBRI EXTENDED BAR PREP AND 8-WEEK BARBRI BAR REVIEW: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Combating Homesickness as an International Law Student

GUEST BLOG Makenzie Way, 2L at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

Coming to America as a law student, whether as a JD or an LLM, is a big step.

Maybe the flight home is just a few hours, or maybe it’s a long haul; either way, at some point during your American law school experience you’re bound to miss home. So what do you do when the homesickness sets in and your class schedule prevent you from booking an emergency trip home?

  1. When you’re visiting home for the holidays make sure to buy some of your favorite snack foods that are unavailable in America. When you begin to feel homesick delve into your emergency supply to make yourself feel a little more normal.
  2. Facetime your parents, siblings, family, or friends back home and have them catch you up on what’s going on in your “old life.”
  3. Find a restaurant in your current city that specializes in your home’s cuisine – as a Canadian I was overjoyed when I found a poutine shop in Philadelphia.
  4. Keep photos of home on your laptop and phone. Quickly scroll through them when you’re feeling a little down.
  5. Join a club or student organization that focuses on some aspect of your culture to keep those ties strong.
  6. If possible, have friends and family visit you while at school, that way you don’t have to drop that ball class-wise, but you still get the benefit of seeing a familiar face.

What ways have you found to combat homesickness in law school, we would love to hear them!