Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Date : May 9, 2023
To : Young Lawyers


I sincerely thank Caryn Voland, the Assistant Dean for Graduate Admissions, and Craig Hoffman, Professor of U.S. Legal Discourse, for taking the time to answer my questions. GHK


GHK: Assistant Dean Voland and Professor Hoffman, I would like to start with an essential question. How does the Two-Year LL.M. program differ from the other LL.M. programs offered at Georgetown Law in terms of academic rigor and curriculum design?


CV: All of our LL.M. programs are rigorous, and students should expect that their LL.M. will be a time of hard work but also of great personal and professional development and a time to build a network of colleagues and friends around the world.  The main difference for our Two-Year program is the innovative curriculum in the first year, when students are taught by a team of professors that includes lawyers and linguists. The first year is not simply “English studies.” Rather, students develop their skills in English while becoming familiar with the structure of the U.S. legal system, and to the analytical approach used by U.S. lawyers.  They also take some of the classes that will count toward their LL.M. degree specialty, which they finish during the second year.


CH: We began the Two-Year LL.M. in 2007.  We have had several excellent students from Turkey in the program. 

We have six full-time faculty members dedicated to the Two-Year LL.M..  Each faculty member has a J.D. degree from a top U.S. law school or a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from the Georgetown Department of Linguistics, which is one of the best applied linguistics programs in the world. I have both a J.D. degree and a Ph.D. in Linguistics.  I am a member of the Georgetown Law faculty, and I also teach classes in the Georgetown Department of Linguistics.

I work with my faculty colleagues to design classes that help students to learn law as they improve their English language skills.  Because we are all focused on teaching law and legal analysis, the language learning becomes part of the legal learning.  We generally teach in lawyer/linguist teams.  Our legal faculty and our linguistics faculty work together to create classes that help students to deeply understand the law and to efficiently improve their language skills.

The Two-Year LL.M. at Georgetown Law is unique.  Students in the Two-Year LL.M. choose to extend their LL.M. study and to increase the opportunities to learn both law and language.  The Two-Year LL.M. students can take advantage of many opportunities that are more difficult for students who choose the traditional one-year LL.M..  Because students in the Two-Year LL.M. begin their LL.M. program by taking basic U.S. law classes in the first semester of the program, they can take more specialized and international law classes during the rest of their degree programs. 

In the first year of LL.M. study, students in the Two-Year LL.M. take the following U.S law classes with other LL.M. students: Introduction to the U.S Legal System; U.S. Legal Research, Analysis, and Writing; and Introduction to Contract Drafting and Interpretation.  They can also choose an elective class from the LL.M. curriculum.  Students have taken Constitutional Law, Contract Law, Evidence Law, and other more specialized classes. 

In addition to their law classes, students in the Two-Year LL.M. also take our specially designed Legal English classes: Legal English; Fundamentals of Legal Writing; and Oral Communication Skills.  These classes are also taught by our lawyer/linguist faculty members.

Because students in the Two-Year LL.M. take regular law classes and the Legal English classes as part of one integrated curriculum, they are learning language as they learn the law.

I believe that all multilingual LL.M. students would benefit from this intentional two-year curriculum in law and language.


GHK: What are the benefits of pursuing the Two-Year LL.M. program at Georgetown University compared to other LL.M. programs?


CV: Language is the lawyer’s most important tool and learning to use language well – for native speakers of English as well as non-native speakers – can be the difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer.  Learning to communicate the way that U.S. lawyers do takes practice.  As noted above, our program is not a typical “English” study program.  It really focuses on learning not only the vocabulary of the law, but the thought process adopted by U.S. lawyers as they analyze problems, and the style and approach that they use to answer legal questions.  All of the classes are taught in the law school, by professors with specific training in law and language.  Another advantage of the Two-Year program is that because students are here for two years, they have more room to take a greater number of classes from the extensive options offered at Georgetown Law.  Students finishing our one-year degree frequently wish that they had more time to take all the classes they are interested in!


CH:  Again, the Two-Year LL.M. at Georgetown is unique because of our intentionally integrated curriculum in law and language.  At other schools, students learn language from ESL teachers who are not trained as lawyers; most of them do not have a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics.   Georgetown is different because the law faculty work with the linguistics faculty in an integrated fashion.  Also, students are taking both LL.M. classes and Legal English classes together. At other schools, the first year is just ESL teaching. At Georgetown, the first year is an LL.M. curriculum that is accompanied by specially designed Legal English classes. 


GHK: In what ways does the Certificate in Legal English component of the Two-Year LL.M. program prepare foreign-trained lawyers to effectively communicate and advocate in English, a language that may not be their first language?


CH: The Certificate in Legal English helps lawyers to use their knowledge of their own languages and legal systems to learn how U.S. lawyers analyze the law.  Our curriculum is designed to recognize that the students are highly successful lawyers in their own languages and legal systems.  The goal is to help students in the Two-Year LL.M. to become effective multilingual international lawyers.  Because English is the dominant language in international legal discourse, it is important for students to become highly proficient in English.  Our Legal English classes focus on careful legal analysis, negotiation skills, and legal writing.  Our graduates have become valuable multilingual lawyers around the world.  We encourage students to take the skills that they are learning in our legal English classes and apply them in their work in their own countries.  I believe that our graduates will not only become better lawyers in English, but they will also become better lawyers in their own languages.  Learning about the interaction of law and language is a new and valuable skill that students in the two-year LL.M. bring back with them to their own work in their own language.


GHK: Can you discuss the role of faculty mentorship and support in the Two-Year LL.M. program, and how this aspect of the program enhances the learning experience for students?


CV: As mentioned earlier, the team of professors that work with students in this program includes professors trained in law, as well as English-language experts.  These professors understand the challenges that foreign lawyers face in understanding the U.S. legal system, which may be very different from the legal system in their home country.  They have worked with international students for many years and can advise them on navigating law school, living in the U.S., and planning for their careers.  Some of the professors provide specific skill development, such as working on public speaking, writing a research paper with a goal of publication, or improving a student’s accent when speaking English. And because our Two-Year cohort is a subset of our overall LL.M. student body (about 40 students per year), the professors who teach the first year curriculum get to know the students very well.


CH:  We are dedicated to the future professional development of our graduates.  We keep in touch with our alumni, and they keep in touch with each other.  I was recently in Riyadh, and we had a reception of our alumni.  Over 130 alumni, many of whom were alumni of the Two-Year LL.M., attended the reception. 

Georgetown Law is a large law school.  The Two-Year LL.M. gives the students a chance for this large law school to feel like a small one.  In their second year, our Two-Year LL.M. students have been extremely active in helping to get the new LL.M.s accustomed to life in Washington, DC.  The Two-Year LL.M. students make friends for life with two different classes of LL.M. students: their fellow Two-Year students; and the one-year LL.M.s who they study with in their first and second years of the program.


GHK: In what ways does the Two-Year LL.M. program foster cross-cultural understanding and competency among students from diverse legal backgrounds?


CV: The two-year cohort includes students from many countries around the world, and is part of our larger student body that regularly welcomes students from 70 or more countries.  As noted in other answers, students from diverse legal backgrounds become familiar with the U.S. legal system and U.S. legal discourse; in the process of this, they have the opportunity to share about their own legal systems and how they may be similar or different.  Students also interact through student organizations, informal social gatherings, etc.  Graduates often talk about how one of the most important aspects of their experience was developing connections with people from around the world and from different backgrounds.


CH: Because our Legal English classes are small (usually no more than 12 students), and because we have students in the Two-Year LL.M. from Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East, students have the opportunity to engage in discussions about the law from students from around the globe.  They then bring this ability to all of their other classes at the law school.  Our Two-Year students become global ambassadors to the entire law school.  It is one of the aspects of the Two-Year LL.M. that I am most proud of.


GHK: What opportunities are available for international students to gain practical legal experience while pursuing the Two-Year LL.M. program at Georgetown University?


CV: Students can do an externship during the summer in between their two years, or during the first or second semester of their second year in the program.  An externship counts as a two-credit class and students work under the supervision of a lawyer in the diverse range of legal employers in the DC area.  Students can also take classes with practical applications like Contract Drafting or Negotiations.


CH: In addition to our excellent externship program, the Two-Year LL.M. students often participate in international moot court competitions.  They write briefs and present oral arguments as part of moot court teams with other Georgetown Law students.


GHK: How does the Two-Year LL.M. program address the unique challenges and opportunities that foreign-trained lawyers face when entering the U.S. legal market, such as differences in legal systems, cultural norms, and professional standards?


CV: All of our students are qualified as lawyers outside the US, and many have several years of legal experience before doing the LL.M.  Through the curriculum as described above, students learn what is expected in terms of communicating about the law in English with US-trained lawyers.  Developing cultural and professional competency is an aspect of all of the classes, especially those that are part of the first-year curriculum.  That said, the goal of the LL.M. program is not necessarily to enable students to enter into the US legal market, as the majority of them will return home to put their new skills to use in their legal practice in their home countries.


CH: The focus of the Two-Year LL.M. is to help each individual student to achieve their professional and personal goals.  Different students, of course, have different goals.  We are beginning a new series of workshops for the Two-Year LL.M.s this fall called “Demystifying the New York Bar.”  This series of classes is directed at those students who are thinking about working in the U.S.  Most of our students return to their home countries and become highly successful multilingual lawyers.   


GHK: How does Georgetown Law’s reputation and location in Washington, D.C. benefit the foreign-trained lawyer in the Two-Year LL.M. program?


CV: Our location is a natural draw for lawyers from around the world.  It is a center of lawmaking in the United States, but also home to important international entities like the World Bank, IMF, OAS, embassies, etc.  Our students in all of our LL.M. programs are taught by adjunct professors with extensive experience in the areas they teach, and many of our full-time faculty members have also spent time working in the government or other high-level positions around the world.  The opportunities for externships are unparalleled in any other city in the US. 


CH:  Again, the main benefit of the Two-Year LL.M. program is that students have the time to take advantage of everything that Washington, DC, has to offer.  For example, we take our students to see arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court – which is just a few blocks from the law school.  Students learn about the case in advance by reading the decisions of the lower courts, and then they attend the argument in the U.S. Supreme Court.  This is an experience that only students in Washington, DC, can have.  Our Legal English classes offer the perfect opportunity to design these experiences for the Two-Year LL.M. students.


GHK: Can students apply for financial aid or scholarships to support their studies in the Two-Year LL.M. program?


CV: Yes, they can.  Students in the Two-Year LL.M. are considered for the same merit-based scholarships as students in the one-year programs.


GHK: In closing, what steps should foreign-trained lawyers take to determine if the Georgetown Law Two-Year LL.M. program is the right fit for them and their legal career goals?


CV: Our graduates tell us that the LL.M. program was one of the best experiences in their lives.  The Two-Year program is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to devote time to enhancing their use of English in a legal context and deepening their understanding of the U.S. legal system, while also earning an LL.M. in their area of interest.  We are happy to speak with any student considering any of our LL.M. programs, including the Two-Year program, or to put them in touch with graduates from the program.


CH:  I am convinced that the Two-Year LL.M. is the best way for all LL.M. students to study in the U.S.  Of course, I designed the program, so I am biased 🙂

Nonetheless, the Two-Year structure allows students to take a year of LL.M. classes and then to reflect on what they have learned over the summer.  Then, they can come back and build on their new knowledge of law and language in the second year.  The second year reinforces the learning in the first year.  I believe that the Two-Year LL.M. students get a richer LL.M. experience because they can take full advantage of all of the intellectual and professional opportunities that come from studying with students from all over the world in the capital of the United States at Georgetown Law.

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