ATTENDING AN LL.M. DEGREE PROGRAM
The top American law schools provide two different types of LL.M. programs; the general LL.M. and the specialized LL.M. Both types of degrees, although significantly differing in structure, result in a Masters of Law. The general LL.M. programs allow the student to attend any course offered by the law school. However, depending on the school, access to basic courses (first-year courses) may be limited.
The general masters degree is ideal for those interested in obtaining a universal understanding of the American legal system, or by those who seek to focus on a specific practice area with a broad based consideration of the system as a whole The general masters program provides the opportunity to return to an academic setting, even if substantially different from the Italian university experience.
This type of LL.M. program, although interesting and stimulating, proves to be less useful for attorneys who have been outside of the academic environment for some years and maintain extensive practical experience.
The specific masters degree program, (for example, an LL.M. in taxation), concentrates in one particular area of law. Therefore, the courses are more advanced and specialized, and more appropriate for those who already have a clear idea of which field they wish to pursue and may already possess experience within the specific area of the law.
While it is rare for an American attorney to pursue a general LL.M. degree, the pursuit of a specialized LL.M. is commonplace for attorneys who specialize in a particular field of law as they are considered a valuable addition to education and professional development. In either case, the technical preparation provided by an LL.M degree always proves to be an enriching and unique experience Aside from the advanced technical preparation, a US post-graduate degree also results in a unique intellectual experience for those that pursue one.
First, you come into contact with the leading universities in the American academic world. The American universities, both public and private, are forerunners in the advancement of legal instruction and research. The educational structure is efficient and technologically advanced. The professors are available to the students and maintain an open attitude and low profile. Second, students find themselves immersed in a true international environment, and come into contact with dozens of students and young professionals originating from all corners of the world. The experience of being in the midst of such a rich cultural experience contributes greatly to opening the students’ mind to a global perspective and preparing candidates for a first-rate career in their home country.
AN INTERNATIONAL NETWORK
The Masters Degree provides a platform in which candidates have the opportunity to develop valuable knowledge and relationships. Given the high profile of the participants, it is easy to develop long lasting relationships with professionals from around the world. Furthermore, considering the swiftness with which an LL.M. graduate reaches a higher level of professional recognition in the legal community, the network obtained represents a valuable asset in the context of professional growth. The law schools periodically organize events for alumni, facilitate local clubs and in general, promote contacts between the schools and alumni. ALMA perpetuates this network of contacts through the organization of events and a comprehensive database of Italian LL.M. students and alumni.
AN INVESTMENT: CAREER OPPORTUNITIES
Even though an LL.M. doesn’t necessarily open the doors to a legal career in the United States, it does provide for career advancement within Italian law firms.
Every June in New York there are two job fairs; one that is organized by New York University and another by Columbia University, both aimed at recruiting law students for the most prominent American law firms.
Usually only the largest Italian and International law firms participate in the job fair. To participate, the student submits an application and then may be selected for an interview. During the day of the fair, applicants interview with the firm for a period of twenty minutes.
While it is very rare to be hired by an American legal firm as a result of the job fair, it is much easier to obtain employment with an Italian Law firm with an LL.M. Usually, the position and the salary offered are superior to that which would be offered in Italy. However, this depends greatly upon the type of career, the field of law, and the prestige of the school from which a degree is obtained.
It is important to emphasize that an LL.M. does not secure work in the United States. If the ultimate goal is to transfer to the United States and find long-term work, it is better to pursue a Juris Doctor Degree. (It is worthwhile to mention that a JD takes three years to obtain).
It is significantly more difficult to be admitted to a JD program in an American Law School, than being admitted as an LL.M. student. One requirement, for example, is successful completion of the LSAT (Law School Admission Test), which is the same exam that American students must sit for and pass. However, some schools will consider the four-year Italian law degree as the equivalent of one year of American law school, and therefore it may be able to complete the degree in two, rather than three years.
The fact that the LL.M. is not recognized as being sufficient to obtain an associate position with an American law firm draws from the fact that one year of legal studies in the United States is not considered adequate training to become competent to practice in a legal system completely different than the Italian system.
A Masters obtained in the United States will provide:
• A unique cultural and intellectual experience
• The possibility to engage in the pursuit of further studies within an academic environment
• Create a network of professionally interesting and globally minded contacts
• The opportunity to meet and interact with the finest American and International legal scholars
• Obtain some knowledge about some aspects of the Law that are just “aped” in Italy
• Oustanding facilities, for example, libraries open 24 hours a day and equipped with technologically advanced resources.
A Masters obtained in the U.S. will not provide:
• Perfect English language skills.
• Mastering the language occurs trough continuous practice. It is, however, a good opportunity to improve English language skills
• Make American friends. Creating contact with J.D. students can take time and patience.
• The possibility to work in the U.S. Contrary to what you may think, an LL.M. it is not the equivalent of a J.D. The American law firms have limited interest in hiring LL.M. graduates. Therefore finding work in the U.S. is extremely difficult and competitive