INTERNATIONAL LL.M. PROGRAMS: NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL of LAW, BOSTON, MA, USA
I sincerely thank Meaghan Maher, Associate Director, Admissions and Marketing LL.M. and International Programs, for taking the time to answer my questions about regular and online LL.M. programs. GHK
GHK: Associate Director Maher, in the last decade or two, many U.S. law schools have created new LL.M. programs for international students, and most international students, including ones from Turkey, aim to come to the U.S. to join those LL.M. programs, if possible. Why should one decide to do an LLM? How can civil-law trained lawyers benefit from a master of laws from the States?
MM: Internationally trained attorneys may want to consider an LLM for a variety of reasons, such as deepening their knowledge of the U.S. legal system, qualifying for a U.S. bar examination, or focusing on a particular area of the law. As the practice of law becomes more global and interconnected, civil-trained lawyers can benefit from a more comprehensive understanding of the U.S. legal system and common law in general that a U.S. LLM provides. For lawyers who want to deepen their knowledge in particular legal specialties, for example, Northeastern Law offers LLM concentrations in Health Policy and Law, Human Rights and Economic Development, International Business Law, and Intellectual Property and Innovation.
GHK: Why should students pursue an LL.M. degree at Northeastern Law versus any other LL.M. programs in the States? What makes attending Northeastern Law a unique experience?
MM: One thing that sets Northeastern Law apart is our leadership in experiential legal education. Through our signature Cooperative Legal Education Program (co-op), on-campus LLM students have the opportunity to participate in a full-time internship that we call a “co-op.” Our students complete co-ops in professional legal settings virtually anywhere in the United States or abroad. While on co-op, students engage in substantive legal work and are supervised by a licensed attorney or judge. Past co-op placements have included private firms, NGOs, government agencies, judges’ chambers, private advocacy groups, and corporate legal departments. With 1,000 established co-op opportunities (plus the option to develop your own co-op), students have the chance to gain invaluable hands-on experience while exploring their interests and building their professional networks.
Our yearlong LLM Professional Development Program helps prepare students for co-op as well as postgraduate employment through workshops, individualized career counseling, mock interviews, and networking opportunities.
GHK: Online LL.M.s and distance learning opportunities grow in appeal during the COVID-19 pandemic. Could you tell us how Northeastern Law has dealt with the challenges that arose with the pandemic?
MM: In the spring of 2020, Northeastern Law quickly pivoted to remote instruction for courses that had previously been taught on-ground. In the fall of 2020, classes were again offered in-person, with students having the option to engage remotely. We just began the new 2021-2022 academic year fully on-campus once again.
Even before the pandemic, we received many requests for our LLM program from prospective students who were not able to relocate to Boston for an entire year. So, in 2019, we launched an Online LLM program. The program is 100% remote and designed for working legal professionals who are looking to expand their foundational knowledge and gain specialized skills without having to pause their careers for an on-ground program. Students can take advantage of three industry-informed curricular paths: Intellectual Property and Technology, International Business, or Bar Examination Preparation for those interested in taking the California Bar Examination.
GHK: As far as online LL.M. programs offered by Northeastern Law concern, can the students work through courses at their own pace? What if the students want to interact with their professors and classmates?
MM: The Online LLM is offered asynchronously. While assignments must be completed within certain deadlines, students are not required to be online at specific times. They can watch the lectures and submit any assignments within a designated timeframe. The asynchronous curriculum allows students to balance their LLM studies with work commitments and accommodate different time zones. While the Online LLM is completely remote, students can still engage with their professors and classmates through discussion boards, optional virtual meetings, or online chats. Professors also communicate with students individually and are accessible by e-mail, video calls, or phone. There is also a one-week optional legal immersion experience in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Online LLM students have the opportunity to meet with practicing attorneys and industry leaders as well as their fellow classmates.
GHK: Does Northeastern Law have an approximate hierarchy on what is most valuable for admissions: GPA, language score, personal statement, and letters of recommendation?
MM: We do not. We use a holistic approach when evaluating applications for admission. We thoroughly review each application component, considering academic record, work experience, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and English proficiency test scores, if applicable. There is no minimum GPA or work experience requirement, but all of these factors are examined as we make our decisions.
GHK: For recent law graduates 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?
MM: I think this would largely depend on where the applicant’s test score falls within the LLM programs’ minimum requirements. If their score was well within that range, I would likely advise the applicant not to retake the test and apply as early as possible. If their score was at the lower end of that range, they might want to consider retaking the test before applying.
GHK: What advice would you give to the prospective applicants from Turkey when it comes to writing the personal statement? What should they include in their statement of purpose?
MM: My first piece of advice for writing the personal statement is to avoid rehashing your resume or CV. The personal statement is an opportunity for applicants to introduce themselves to the Admissions Committee and show why they would be a good fit for the program. So, they should definitely take advantage of that. Applicants might want to include why they would like to pursue an LLM degree, how an LLM will advance their professional goals, and why that particular program appeals to them. Some LLM programs may have particular prompts to answer, so applicants should, of course, pay close attention to any specific instructions. Lastly, always carefully proofread your personal statement.
GHK: Is financial aid available? May the prospective applicants from Turkey receive an application fee waiver?
MM: Yes, all of our LLM students are eligible for consideration for tuition scholarships. Students may be awarded a partial tuition scholarship or even a (limited number of) full-tuition scholarships. Students are automatically considered for scholarship funding when their application is reviewed for admission. There is no separate application for scholarship consideration. I’m happy to say that we do not have an application fee, so no need for a waiver.
GHK: Is there career placement assistance for LL.M. students who wish to practice law in the States or their home countries?
MM: The LLM Professional Development Program does offer postgraduate advising, including individual career counseling sessions, assistance with updating resumes and cover letters, and Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization advising.
GHK: Does online LL.M. meet the eligibility requirements for Massachusetts or any other states’ bars?
MM: The majority of state bars do not accept online LLM coursework, but exceptions include California and Washington state. However, we always recommend that students confirm their individual eligibility with state bar examiners where they would like to sit for the exam.
GHK: Is there any final advice you could give to readers of this interview?
MM: An LLM program is a significant investment, both financially and personally. Therefore, I would advise any prospective applicants to begin their research well in advance of any application deadlines, carefully considering how different LLM programs would best fit their goals — academically, professionally, and personally. Rather than focus on school rankings, prospective applicants may want to first decide what they would like from their LLM experience and then narrow down which programs which help them achieve that.