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 it can be 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.
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.
#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!