< US Law Programs Interest International Students
04 March 2023

Each year, thousands of legal professionals from around the world come to the United States for advanced legal training. They often choose to attend a Master of Laws program or LL.M.

The LL.M. program is different from the Juris Doctor or J.D. program. A J.D. degree is required for those who want to practice law in the U.S.

In the LL.M. program, legal professionals learn about the U.S. government, the U.S. legal system, and international legal issues. They can specialize in several areas including intellectual property, international business, immigration, human rights, and security.

Students attend class at Wake Forest University's School of Law in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in this 2020 photo. (Courtesy Wake Forest University/Ken Bennett)
Students attend class at Wake Forest University's School of Law in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in this 2020 photo. (Courtesy Wake Forest University/Ken Bennett)

LL.M. influence around the world

A 2020 study from The Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University shows that international students make up 79 percent of LL.M. students at American law schools.

One such student is Aimé Mbarushimana.

After practicing law for 15 years in Rwanda, Aimé came to American University's Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. to get advanced training in arbitration, mediation, and alternative dispute resolution. These are ways of settling disagreements without legal action.

He said the training he received at American University helps support the traditional Ubuntu belief system in Rwanda. Ubuntu highly values building agreements and communities. He told VOA Learning English that using more mediation can help lower the number of court cases in Rwanda and give judges more time to work on them.

Mimoza Shala is a prosecutor in the Eastern European nation of Kosovo. She studies in the LL.M. program at Wake Forest University's School of Law in North Carolina. The school has partnered with the U.S. Departments of Justice and State for the last ten years to train legal professionals from Kosovo.

Shala's job in Kosovo includes working on cases of domestic violence. Wake Forest University (WFU) connected her with an American prosecutor who also works on domestic violence cases. And she learned how the two legal systems deal with the issues.

Nishchay Dagar of India worked for two years in trial law in his country before coming to WFU. Dagar said he now "feels in love with professional ethics" and wants to bring this training to his future work. He also sees the U.S. legal system as more efficient than India's, and he hopes to bring this organization to his work.

Expensive but worth it

The cost of attending LL.M. programs in the U.S. is usually higher than in other countries. However, students who spoke with VOA said the extra cost is worth it, for many reasons.

Law professors in the U.S. usually give students more individual help than those in their home countries. Besides office hours to study and receive advice, sometimes, professors would invite groups of students to their homes for social gatherings. They also help students connect with working professionals and legal experts.

Gabriel Ortiz of Venezuela recently completed his degree, specializing in human rights law, at American University. He noted that many professors are also experts in different legal areas. They include judges for the Inter-American Court and lawyers at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.

Ortiz also found that law students from Italy, Turkey, Nigeria, and Myanmar also had similar issues in their home countries. He said, "What I found interesting was to see how we share similar problems... We are able to know that the realities we are facing are not that different."

Laura Orjuela from Colombia agrees. The American University law student said she has deepened her understanding of gender issues by talking with students from countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Myanmar. She added that when students compare so many international perspectives about the same issue, it helps increase the number of possible solutions they can use to fix problems.

"Maybe this thing we did in my country, it never worked... what they did in that country... we'll try it to see if that works," she said.

Dagar, from India, said he highly values professional experience outside the classroom. These include pro bono, or volunteer work and special courts for people under age 18. WFU School of Law also has a North Carolina Business Court within the law school building where students can observe real court cases.

Wen Wei and Li Ruoqi of China are students at Georgetown's law school in Washington, D.C. They said that because there are so many law students in China, having an LL.M. degree from one of the top law schools can help students get better jobs in China.

LL.M. students in the U.S. must possess high levels of understanding of legal English. They usually have classes and attend social events with American students. As a result, their English skills can greatly improve during their LL.M. studies.

Sherhernaz Joshi is an Assistant Dean of Graduate and International Programs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She said many students have said, "I thought I was coming for a degree, but the experience changed me forever."

I'm Andrew Smith. And I'm Caty Weaver.

Words in This Story

advanced - adj. characterized by high levels of training or experience needed and/or high levels of complexity

intellectual property - n. original creative works such as books, films, works of art, and music, and whose creators have ownership of them

arbitration - n. the hearing and ruling of a dispute or disagreement between parties by a person or persons chosen or agreed to by them

mediation - n. a way of resolving a disagreement by using a third party who helps those involved reach an agreement.

alternative - n. another choice or way to do something

resolution - n. an end or settlement of a disagreement

prosecutor - n. a government official who brings criminal charges against and/or tries to prove that someone is guilty in a trial.

domestic violence - n. violence that occurs within a family

ethics -n. the study of what is right or wrong in a moral sense

reality -n. the true situation

perspective -n. a way of seeing or judging something or some situation

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