INTERNATIONAL LL.M. PROGRAMS: INDIANA UNIVERSITY MAURER SCHOOL OF LAW, BLOOMINGTON, IN, USA
I sincerely thank William Schaad, the Director of International Admissions at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, for taking the time to answer my questions. Gizem Halis Kasap
GHK: Director Schaad, law is increasingly called upon to respond to challenges posed by the global legal environment. In the light of this, what do you think is the point of an international LL.M. degree, especially for someone with a civil-law background? Considering that Turkey has a civil law system, what benefits does an LL.M. in the States provide to Turkish law graduates?
WS: With the recent globalization of law, I think it is important for the next generation of law graduates to have had significant exposure to the various legal systems of the world. I believe we will continue to see an increased overlap, mixed legal systems, and a growing need to be well-versed in more than just the traditional systems of our home country.
At Indiana Law, we support this through many in-bound and out-bound exchange programs, by welcoming visiting scholars from around the globe, our efforts to increase international students in our JD, LL.M., and S.J.D. programs as well as offering such LL.M. options as our International and Comparative Law and Globalization specialization. Three of the Law School’s research centers are also dedicated to global issues.
As this globalization of law continues, I think the benefits of the right US LL.M. program to a Turkish law student will become increasingly important. As the world continues to get smaller and we become a global community, we must then prepare ourselves for the challenge of keeping up with that change. A US LL.M. might just hold greater value now than ever before. Whether planning to work as a lawyer, professor of law, for a multi-national business, in politics, or in one of many other professions that overlap with law, having a US LL.M. has its obvious benefits.
GHK: For recent law graduates from Turkey who take the language test and are unhappy with their original score, would you recommend applying as early as possible anyway, or should they retake the test and apply? Can applicants get conditional acceptance if they are unable to demonstrate sufficient English proficiency?
WS: I think that is a great question given that English proficiency is such a huge factor in gaining admission to any program in the US as a foreign applicant. I think opinions will vary on this, but my own is that the applicant should apply early and should obviously provide their best score before each school’s deadline. If the score is far from the school’s requirement, taking the English test again before reporting a score might be best. But the strategy depends on the school applied to. Here at Indiana Law, for example, we have so many paths for admission that I like to see the score early in the process, even if it’s well below our published requirement. We also offer a variety of ways to demonstrate English proficiency, such as TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo, and personal interviews via Zoom. Students with an acceptable score can be directly admitted, those with slightly lower scores can be admitted under the condition that they arrive early for our Legal English summer program, those with even lower proficiency might qualify for our two-year LL.M., and those with beginner-level English would benefit from our Intensive English Program (IEP) first. Here is a little more information on each of the options I mentioned above.
Our Intensive English Program (IEP) is a great place to start for students who are still learning basic English. IEP students study English full time until they reach an acceptable level for admission. The program is for students of all levels of English proficiency, with an emphasis on developing the necessary oral and written skills for academic studies and business or professional communication.
2-Year LL.M. Pathway Program:
Our new LL.M. Pathway allows students with mid-level English skills to continue improving their English and Legal English while earning university credit and making progress towards the LL.M. The first year is primarily English/Legal English training followed by regular LL.M. courses in the second year. This special path allows students with lower English proficiency to gradually enter the LL.M., rather than being admitted directly to a program that they might not otherwise be ready for. This is similar to conditional admission, with the condition here being successful completion of the pathway year.
Summer Legal English:
LL.M. students who are required to or interested in improving their legal English skills and getting an early start on their LL.M. coursework are invited to participate in the Summer Start Program. The Summer Start Program consists of a non-credit 5.5-week Legal English course taught by the Indiana University’s Intensive English Program (IEP) and a two-week, Introduction to American Law course taught by the Law School.
GHK: Does the admissions committee come across letters of recommendation that hurt an applicant’s admission chances? If so, what sort of letter should be avoided? Could you offer some general advice regarding letters of recommendation?
WS: I rarely see letters of recommendation that significantly hurt the applicant’s chances. More often, I see letters that simply fail to actually help. Letters of recommendation from irrelevant sources or from a reference who is clearly not that familiar with the applicant can do little to help admission chances. I think the advice here is simply to choose your references wisely. Make sure they are relevant, that they clearly remember you and your work, and that they have plenty of reason to support you for a US LL.M. Personally, I prefer to see a mix of educators and professional references when that is possible.
GHK: It is a common understanding that an LL.M. degree is a key for practicing in the States for someone who has a foreign law degree. Do you think an LL.M. degree is the best choice for international lawyers who plan to remain and practice law in the States?
WS: There are a lot of factors to consider when making the decision between a US LL.M. and a JD degree. Time, cost, and which state/s someone hopes to practice in are a few of the primary ones. The LL.M. has its advantages; it’s comparatively short at just two semesters, it is lower cost than the JD, and it can qualify graduates to practice law in some great places, such as NY, CA, DC, and a few others. I think the JD is a little more recognized by employers, it offers more time in class for greater expertise, and it opens the door to sit for a greater number of US bar exams. At Indiana Law, we even have students complete the LL.M. and then the JD too. This is in part due to students changing their minds once they enroll and/or because of our LL.M. to JD transfer option, which makes both degrees more possible.
GHK: Since LL.M. degrees are typically expensive to obtain, could you please tell us a bit about merit or need-based scholarships that the Maurer School of Law offers? What kind of characteristics does the Maurer School of Law look for in a candidate for merit or need-based scholarship? Does applying for financial aid affect one’s chances of admission?
WS: US education, while amongst the highest quality in the world, can certainly be expensive. I am always happy to be able to tell our applicants that we have one of the lowest tuition rates among the top 40 US schools. Further to that, we have multiple scholarships available, and I work hard to support every admitted student financially. For example, we automatically consider every LL.M. and MCL applicant for scholarships which cover up to 50% of tuition. Here are the types of opportunities available and the characteristics we look for in each case.
Merit scholarships (LL.M., MCL)
All admitted students are automatically considered for merit scholarships. Qualified students are selected on the basis of academic and professional merit. Merit considerations include the student’s previous academic performance, English proficiency (if applicable), academic achievements and awards, as well as professional experience.
Need-based scholarships (LL.M., MCL)
All admitted students are automatically considered for need-based aid, as demonstrated by their admission file. Need-based scholarships are awarded on the basis of demonstrated financial need as described in the student’s personal statement, application, or other indicators during the application process. To be considered, your personal statement should indicate and demonstrate a need for financial assistance.
Diversity scholarships (LL.M., MCL)
Indiana Law makes every effort to diversify our incoming class and extend the reach of legal education by reaching out to and assisting underrepresented groups. Our diversity awards are for graduate law students who are members of a diverse group, which can vary from year to year or evolve with time. Diversity awards are primarily defined by students of underrepresented origin or ethnicity but may also be applied based on gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, physical disability, or other broadly defined diversity traits.
George P. Smith, II Fellowship (LL.M., MCL)
George P. Smith, II, an internationally recognized scholar, lecturer, and a professor emeritus of law, received his undergraduate and JD degrees from Indiana University. The fellowship in his name is available to students pursuing a Master of Laws degree (LL.M.) at the Maurer School of Law, with a preference for a student who is a citizen from any of the 53 countries that make up the British Commonwealth.
Partner institutions and organization scholarships (LL.M., MCL, S.J.D.)
We have established formal and informal partnerships with universities and higher education organizations around the world to assist graduate students in continuing their legal education at the Maurer School of Law. If you are a current or past student of one of our partner institutions or working with a partner organization such as Fulbright, IIE, EdUSA, FUNED, COLFUTURO, or others, you may be eligible for a scholarship of up to 50 percent of tuition.
GHK: Is there career placement assistance for LL.M. students who wish to practice law in the States or their home countries at the Maurer School of Law? What should international LL.M. graduates do to increase their chances of recruitment after graduation, considering the economy affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
WS: Yes, but even before graduation, our new Learning and Working (LAW) LL.M. program offers some nice resume material. Students in the LAW LL.M. program complete their LL.M. and gain hands-on, real-world experience at the same time. That’s a great boost to any resume. Depending on a student’s interests and qualifications (including visa status), one could earn law school credit by participating in unpaid experiential opportunities, such as:
Aside from that, we have staff dedicated to helping students prepare for all aspects of job searching as well as a Career Services Office with additional resources. We also participate in the International Student Interview Program in NY each year. Our well-prepared students use this opportunity to apply for internship and permanent positions, and each year we see some exciting success stories!
GHK: Last year, I participated in the Maurer School of Law’s Graduate Colloquium and presented my S.J.D. dissertation research, which gave me an excellent opportunity to discuss and develop my ideas and network with my peers at the Maurer School of Law. Do you have any general advice that you would like to offer to S.J.D. applicants from Turkey before putting together applications to be one of these S.J.D. candidates benefitting from these network opportunities at the Maurer School?
WS: Each applicant needs different advice or assistance, so there is no blanket-answer that works to answer that question. Our S.J.D. is for students who already hold an LL.M. degree and have demonstrated exceptional academic legal writing, analysis, and research abilities. S.J.D. students typically plan to have careers in teaching law. The best advice I can give to any S.J.D. or LL.M. applicant is to make contact with me prior to applying. I can help them with the application and assist them individually in representing themselves in the best possible way. I take great pride in being each applicant’s teammate during the process. I am a pretty good resource to take advantage of, and we can do great things together!
Thank you for this wonderful interview opportunity, and best wishes to you from your second home here in Indiana.