The Summer Before the LL.M.

Many foreign-educated LL.M. students are busy making final preparations to begin their studies in the next 4-8 weeks. Whether you’re finalizing your F-1 visa process, getting ready for an intensive legal English course in July, or looking at apartments in your new destination, I know it is a very busy time. Add to that wrapping up your law degree or your job, thinking about currency conversion, and the nerves whenever you embark on a new adventure, and there is a lot going on! You may really just want to focus on getting to orientation at this stage and taking time to relax!

But foreign-educated LL.M. students are generally an ambitious group. “What should I do this summer to prepare” is a popular question, even with everything else going on. Depending on your school, you may have already received all this advice and so much more. But just in case you did not, or if you’re planning to attend a U.S. law school in January or August 2023:

  1. The LL.M. Connection. Arriving at orientation feeling like you already know people is a big relief and is one of the best things about Pre-LL.M. programs. The group I worked with last year already knew each other quite well from weeks of interactive Zoom activities, Whatsapp group chats, and reaching out to each other. I encourage you to start getting to know your LL.M. classmates (not just those who will attend from the same country!), who will become an important part of your academic and professional journey. Not just for the LL.M. year but hopefully for the rest of your lives.
  2. The J.D. Connection. If you are in a General LL.M. program or a program where you take courses with J.D. students, you have another layer of engagement available. Many schools have J.D. student ambassadors and/or J.D. student teaching assistants who help students at the school. You can reach out to see if any of these J.D. students will be in your courses (or serving as teaching assistants in any of your courses). While you will hopefully find that your J.D. community is overall a very friendly group, these students in particular have “opted-in” to assisting and being great resources for new students.
  3. Bar Exam 101: I do not recommend starting to study for a bar exam yet. But I do recommend that you develop the plan for (i) will you take a bar exam; (ii) if so, do you know which one you’ll plan to take; (iii) do you understand the eligibility requirements, curricular requirements, and process for being evaluated and registering; and (iv) do you understand how commercial bar prep companies work, their costs, and their timelines. Your school may cover this extensively at orientation, or may have already shared this information with you.
  4. Getting to Maybe: U.S. law school exams are an important part of the LL.M. experience and may be totally different from your LL.B. experience. They were definitely different from my B.A. experience! I do not recommend starting to read your casebooks just yet (or even supplements), but you may want to do what some J.D. students do: read Getting to Maybe, for a relatively light summer read.
  5. Before you depart, I recommend reaching out to people who have played an important role in your legal journey to this point. You may want to thank professors, practitioners, and others who have helped you through your LL.B. and career to this point. They may share advice (especially if they completed LL.M. degrees in the U.S.) as you embark on your journey. They may be happy to hear about your LL.M. and encourage you to stay in touch as you progress through your studies. And they may also have great contacts for you to reach out to in the United States, or may reach out directly to let them know about you.

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