INTERNATIONAL LL.M. PROGRAMS: UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT SCHOOL OF LAW, HARTFORD, CT, USA
I wholeheartedly thank Sarah Schwartz, Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions, for taking the time to interview with me. DK
DK: Assistant Director Schwartz, considering that Turkey has a civil law system, what benefits does an LL.M. from a U.S. law school provide to Turkish law graduates?
SS: Many of our LL.M. students come from civil law countries where the system of law is completely different from what you find in the U.S. The exposure to a common law system is precisely one reason why students choose to come here. Now, many LL.M. graduates work in global environments where exposure to these different legal systems is essential. In addition, pursuing an LL.M. in the United States allows students to develop their English language skills and critical legal thought within a different cultural context. The legal classroom environment in the United States uses the Socratic Method, which requires students to participate actively in the classroom and articulate legal arguments. For all of these reasons, Turkish law graduates will find an LL.M. from the United States to be highly unique and beneficial.
DK: Organizations nowadays face more complex problems. For example, COVID-19 pandemic has created supply chain issues, affected health and safety of employees, business methods, customer relations and corporate reputations. Where the global economy is open to such sudden changes and has no borders, it is of great importance for the organizations to monitor regulatory changes, adapt to new technologies, identify risks, implement prevention mechanisms, create internal rules and controls. Therefore, there is a need of lawyers with an in-depth understanding of corporate and regulatory governance and risk management. What does the LL.M. in Governance, Risk Management and Compliance of UConn Law offer to its students?
SS: UConn Law’s LL.M. in Governance, Risk Management and Compliance offers students the opportunity to gain a strong legal foundation in each branch within the field: corporate and regulatory governance, financial and insurance-based risk management, and compliance. In this way, students will find it to be a well-rounded program that prepares them for a variety of complex situations that you mentioned. Graduates will be prepared to build compliance systems, manage legal and regulatory risk within organizations and to exercise sound legal judgement under the pressure of a crisis situation, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Students may also take courses in an area in which they wish to specialize. In addition to the five required courses, students have the opportunity to choose up to nine electives, which grants a large degree of flexibility in the direction they wish to take their degree. Our core courses range from Energy Regulation and Policy to Insurance Regulation, to Health Law, to International Trade Compliance.
DK: What could recently graduate lawyers with little or no experience in the field gain from LL.M. in Governance, Risk Management and Compliance? Would UConn Law advise to apply to LL.M. in Governance, Risk Management and Compliance after practicing law for a certain time?
SS: For a recently graduated lawyer with little experience in the field, our LL.M. would be the perfect way to develop a well-rounded foundation of knowledge in compliance. The LL.M. degree communicates a degree of highly specialized knowledge to future employers, and give students confidence when entering a role in this field of law. Students in our program must take five required courses, which will set this foundation and establish a baseline of competency. Then, with their remaining credits, students may focus on the particular regulatory domains in which they seek to specialize. Students learn the critical aspects of building a compliance system from the ground up and exposure to systems across different regulatory domains. We see both new and experienced lawyers who are interested in our LL.M. in Governance, Risk Management and Compliance. In our very first cohort of this LL.M., one student was an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Connecticut. For him, the LL.M. in Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance was an exciting opportunity to deepen and expand his knowledge in order to improve his day-to-day work. In addition, experienced lawyers may be seeking a pathway to teach in this field of law.
DK: Who would be an ideal candidate for LL.M. in Governance, Risk Management and Compliance?
SS: To start with, candidates should have completed a first degree in law in their country (for example, an LL.B.) and have a strong level of English language proficiency. When we review candidates, we are looking for academic performance, professional experience, and intellectual curiosity. Of course, it helps to have a strong academic record from your first law degree. However, it is also important to show your overall passion and motivation to pursue a particular degree. It is not necessary to have a background in governance, risk management and compliance to be a competitive applicant to the program.
DK: Could you explain weight or emphasis given to each part of a student’s application such as GPA, language score, letter of motivation and letters of recommendation?
SS: You could think of each part of the application as a piece of a larger puzzle. Certain elements, such as GPA and language score, will develop a baseline standard that tells us you will be successful in our programs. For that reason, an applicant should check our application requirements to make sure their GPA and language scores fit our profile. The personal statement and letters of recommendation also are a crucial part of the puzzle. The personal statement in particular is where we really get to know who you are as a candidate, beyond your CV and academic record. It tells us the larger story of who you are, what drives your interest in a particular program, and what experiences have prepared you for this step. The letters of recommendation are important to show your collegiality, character, and work ethic. A strong applicant will understand the role of each piece of the application and make sure each piece highlights a different aspect of their profile.
DK: What would be your advice for prospective applicants who wish to pursue an LL.M. program in UConn Law but have financial limitations?
SS: First, I would seek to understand the total cost of your LL.M. program. The total cost of attendance includes not only the tuition, but also costs such as housing, health insurance, transportation, and university fees. When researching different programs, it is important to understand the full cost of each program and how factors such as location influence the cost of living. Luckily, UConn School of Law is located in an affordable city where the cost of living (including rent, groceries, and transportation) is reasonable for students. One university may offer you an excellent scholarship package, but their tuition and the cost to live in their city may actually be substantially higher than another school. You will want to be aware of that and compare the total cost of each option. Many schools, including UConn School of Law, offer merit scholarships. In order to receive such scholarship support, applicants should put their best foot forward through a well-written personal statement and stellar recommendations from professors and supervisors who know them well. Finally, there are many outside scholarships to which students can apply. Students should start the scholarship search early, as outside scholarship deadlines can be up to a full year before starting your program. For your convenience, UConn Law’s LL.M. office has compiled a list of outside scholarships on our website.
DK: Does UConn provide guidance to the LL.M. students to get compliance certifications and/or accreditations (e.g., Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional, Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager, Certified Community Bank Compliance Officer etc.) following completion of their studies?
SS: UConn School of Law’s LL.M. programs are not related to outside compliance certificates. The American Bar Association acquiesces to all UConn Law’s LL.M. programs and students interested in sitting for the bar exam may choose to enroll in the Legal Profession course. Additional certificates can be pursued outside the school of law in the appropriate approving body.
DK: What kind of career opportunities are available to graduates of LL.M. in Governance, Risk Management and Compliance?
SS: Our graduates work in a variety of roles in the United States and abroad. For example, one of our LL.M. graduates is currently the Head of Global Compliance at British American Tobacco in London and another works as a financial crime prevention analyst for UBS (United Bank of Scotland) in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I mentioned another current student is an assistant attorney general in Connecticut. Our program is brand new, but we are excited to see what other graduates will achieve.
DK: Does UConn offer any employment or internship opportunities for LL.M. students or graduates? Could you also briefly explain the LL.M.+ program and how students can get practical training through this program?
SS: UConn Law LL.M. students may take advantage of many practical opportunities while pursuing their degrees, including field placements, clinics, and our LL.M.+ program. Field placement courses offer students great opportunities to extern at settings such as government offices and agencies, corporate in-house legal departments, federal and state judicial chambers, and adjudication divisions of administrative agencies. Our LLM+ program gives students the option to add a semester of full-time practical training at a field placement site in Hartford, CT, New York, NY, Washington, D.C. or elsewhere. Through these opportunities, students put their classroom learning into practice. In addition, we have a dedicated LL.M. Career Counselor who works with students to hone resumes, practice interview skills, develop a professional identity and search for relevant jobs. We know that practical training and career support are essential aspects of an LL.M. program, so we want to make sure students feel supported in these areas. Finally, we have an extensive alumni network that students can tap into for networking and career advice.
DK: Thank you for taking the time to respond to our questions, Assistant Director Schwartz. Would you have any final advice to give our readers?
SS: We look forward to meeting you virtual or in-person (if possible) to share with you the many benefits of joining the UConn Law community. We have many opportunities for prospective LL.M. students to interact with us, including a virtual open house series every fall and spring, participation in several virtual fairs, and of course the opportunity to set up an individual meeting with us or talk to a current student. Please do not hesitate to reach out, as our admissions team is always happy to hear from you!